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School construction continues
Construction workers prepare an exterior wall to be faced with brick on one of the new wing extensions at Langston Chapel Middle School Tuesday.
    School's out for summer, but school construction goes on. Whether it's the final touches of the new Statesboro High School,  wing extensions at Langston Chapel and Southeast Bulloch middle schools, a new wing at Brooklet Elementary or plans being drawn up for the new Portal Middle High School, workers are continuing their tasks while the classrooms are empty.
    Overcrowding is the major reason for the construction projects at Bulloch County schools. Some teachers have been "floating," with no classroom of their own; students have been doubled up with two classes in one room, and even the teacher's lounge in one school has housed classes.
    But the new construction should ease the cramped spaces and adequately handle the population growth in the county, said Bulloch County Schools Assistant Superintendent Charles Wilson.
    The largest ongoing project by far is the construction of the new Statesboro High School. Being built around the "old" school, the new construction is nearing completion. However, no date has been set for the move-in.
    "There are a lot of components on schedule, but we are constantly evaluating," he said. "We have issues with classrooms, the commons area, parking lot - a lot of things related to student and teacher comfort that we're still evaluating."
    School officials want to make sure everything is ready before students and teachers move into the new buildings.
    "We don't want to force ourselves into a premature situation," he said.
    Everything will be new, except the old gymnasium will be kept as an "extra" gym, or physical education gym, Wilson said. The school will have a new gymnasium for sports events as well.
    The school, built to hold 2,000 students, will have a 1,500 seat auditorium and the commons area will link to the cafeteria, providing more room for students who have been cramped into a tiny lunchroom where it has been difficult for them to eat their meals.
    "We're meeting on a weekly basis with the county and architects, and are assigning new rooms, making preparations for the logistical move," said Statesboro High School Principal Marty Waters. "We're kind of getting excited. They're making a lot of progress."
    Waters said he expects a move-in date to be decided by mid-June.
Portal Middle and High School
    While construction of Statesboro High nears an end, the plans are just being drawn up for a brand-new school in Portal.
    The newer middle school wings built just a few years ago will be incorporated into the new construction, but things will be vastly different when the school construction begins, Wilson said.
    The school property will expand, as a number of homes and a portion of a street will be demolished and become part of the campus. A new gym is included in designs, but alternate bids will be let on a design that includes the old gymnasium in case budget issues arise, he said.
    "The old gym could be kept as a practice gym," he said, adding that recent improvements include air conditioning in the structure.
    Phase one site work is expected to begin by early fall, and bids could be let by then, Wilson said. Construction on  the new school is expected by Jan. 1, 2009, and the construction is expected to be completed by summer of 2010, he said. "We will demolish the old part (of the school) after the move-in, and will evaluate the old gym at that time."
    The school will be able to accommodate 600 students. Currently, it holds about 470.
    "I think  the growth will come," said Portal Middle/High School Principal Jimmy Parrish. "I really think [a new school] will benefit the community. It's  a win-win situation."
    Having a new school will help lure families into the area, which will help the town grow, he said. "I think [the larger school] will fill on up."
    Only three high school classes will be displaced during the construction, and will be housed in mobile units until the construction is complete, he said.
A new wing for Brooklet; LCMS, SEBMS expands
    Brooklet Elementary began experiencing growing pains almost immediately after its construction a few years ago. A population explosion on the south side of the county brought more students, and the new rooms quickly became cramped.
    A new 12-classroom wing should alleviate the overcrowding, Wilson said.
    "We expect a midsummer completion" on the wing, he said. "We have eight classrooms in mobile units now," but plans are for those classrooms to be moved into the new wing this summer. Four of the mobile units will  be moved — two to Julia P. Bryant to ease overcrowding there, and two to Portal Middle/High School to house the displaced high school classes during construction.
    "There is nowhere to put the children," said Brooklet Elementary School Principal Priscilla Clifton, who is retiring this year. "We have classes in the teacher's lounge! We have teachers sharing classrooms. The new wing is a good thing to have."
    A 10-classroom wing expansion is going up at Southeast Bulloch Middle School, Wilson said.
    "We're finishing the electrical and plumbing," he said. The extended wings will allow the teaching team plan to work as it should. Middle school students are taught in " teams" — with each team having a math teacher, a science teacher, a language arts teacher and a social studies teacher. The expansion will allow addition of an extra team for each grade level and will also provide two new classrooms for electives and special education classes, he said.
    "We are so very excited," said SEBMS Principal Donna Clifton. "We won't have to double up,and will be able to fully use our technology. The teachers are also excited, and we're so proud ... everything seems to be right on target."
    Langston Chapel Middle School is getting the same thing - a wing expansion, Wilson said.
    Expanding to allow the team concept to work adequately is a great benefit, he said. Teachers move up with each team as they progress to higher grades, and with the population growth in  this school as well, the school needs that third team, he said.
    The extra room is a delight, said LCMS Principal Elizabeth Williams.
    "We are so excited about the opportunity to spread out a little," she said. "We've been having a hard time being able to find a place to even have a meeting. We have one floating teacher and two sharing a classroom." The expansions will end having to juggle schedules, she said. "It's a challenge to work with a schedule like that."
    Wilson said  the project is expected to be completed in mid-July.
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