Parents, teachers and school administrators see a lot of potential for the new LaFayette sixth-grade academy scheduled to open next school year.
The academy will be in the old LaFayette High School building on Cherokee Street.
Tom Taylor, director of facilities, maintenance, and administrative services for the Walker County school system, said there is no definite timetable for completing renovations to the building.
However he recieves a daily update of the work and hopes renovations will be finished by the end of June.
Staff would then start moving in by July. Only sixth-grade students zoned to attend LaFayette Middle will attend the academy.
The current LaFayette Middle School will have renovations during the 2005-06 school year.
“A student’s sixth-grade year is a tough transition,” School Superintendent Roy Sapough said. “In sixth grade, a student can go from being really excited about school to getting turned off to it, so I have high expectations for the academy.”
Maggie Stultz, assistant principal at the middle school, will be the administrator at the new academy.
She also sees it as an opportunity to help the students make a smooth transition from elementary to middle school.
“It is a huge transition, socially, behaviorally, and academically,” Stultz said about sixth grade. “They go from recess to no recess and they are in classes all the time. They switch teachers all the time. It is a real difficult year and they get so overwhelmed by coming to this large building.”
Principal Kevin Richardson will still oversee the middle school, but Stultz will be at the academy full time.
“I am very excited about it and I think there is a huge opportunity for the community,” Stultz said. “We’re hoping by getting the students in a more structured environment, we can better work on their communication and organization skills but still offer the same services.”
Another item the teachers and school system will be working on is putting emphasis on test scores. Across the state, there is a noticeable drop in the number of students who do not reach the test score standards once they attend sixth grade.
At the middle school, workers will put on a new roof, heating and air, kitchen and restrooms, according to Sapough.
“Instead of adding classrooms, we are pulling the sixth grade out the school and into the academy,” Sapough said. “It will reduce the school size from 1,000 to 650 students, which I think is a more ideal size for a school.”
Sapough does not expect the students to move back from the academy to the middle school once the renovations are completed there.
Eddy Combs, director of personnel, said it is still up in the air if they are going to add teachers for the facility.
He said they will look at the numbers and see what additional needs they may have. Non-certified personnel such as secretaries, custodians, and kitchen workers will likely be hired for the facility.
Stultz said the school system wrote a grant request for wireless Internet capability throughout the entire school. They will not hear if they get it until the middle of April.
The main building, which is parallel to Cherokee Street on the left side, will be used for classrooms, offices, and a library.
Sapough said some of the social workers, special education, hearing, speech, and other system workers currently in another building will relocate to make room for parent-conference rooms and a bandroom.
Those two buildings, the cafeteria, and the resurfaced gym will be the only areas of the building used for the academy.
“I think the idea for this came out of necessity,” Sapough said. With all the growth in the county and subdivisions going up, Sapough sees the need for another middle school in the next two to three years.
The sixth-grade academy will have approximately 350 students and have four blocks of classes in the day.
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