FIRST LOOK INSIDE: North Harlem Elementary School opens its doors, prepares for future growth

Monday, August 5, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- North Harlem is a brand new school opening its doors. Today, parents and kids got the first look inside the $20-million project.

4-year-old Ben Matthews is getting ready for the big day.

"Ben, what do you want to be when you grow up?" Kyle Matthews, Ben's dad asked.

"Batman," Ben said.

"We'll look into other careers after that," Matthews said.

It'll be his first day of school in the brand new North Harlem Elementary after getting rezoned from Euchee Creek Elementary.

"I most looking forward to him socializing with other children," Matthews said. "Just watching him grow."

Ben is one of 93 rezoned to the new school and one of 800 who will walk through the North Harlem doors for the first time on Wednesday. It will fit up to 1,000 for future growth.

"It has a lot of cosmetic work that still remains to be done," Dr. Sandra Carraway, the Superintendent for Columbia County Schools said. "The most important part is that our teachers classrooms, the cafeteria, they're all ready for the first day."

Dr. Carraway says the new building is all about technology. Each teacher has a microphone necklace that syncs to the classrooms voice amplification system.

"A child can talk into the microphone and hear their voice across the classroom," Dr. Carraway said. "This really encourages students to want to participate and it increases engagement."

Most of the inside is complete, aside from the kitchen. Staff will bring over hot meals prepared at the old school across the street.

The outside is still a work in progress, but open for business. The Fire Marshall gave the approval to occupy the building for the open house and first day back. The Board of Education says the final certificate of occupancy will be awarded in several weeks after construction is completed.

It's just the first of many new schools coming to Columbia County.

There are plans for a new high school campus in which all high school students across the county can choose to spend part of their day there.

There are also plans for another elementary school and either another middle school or building onto the existing Greenbrier Middle School, Harlem Middle School and Columbia Middle School. The board of education will meet this fall to make a final decision.

There are also plans to revamp older schools. South Columbia Elementary School, Westmont Elementary School and North Columbia Elementary School are next on that list.