Furniture and electronic equipment are being moved in and teachers are being invited to come decorate their classrooms next week — East Rockingham Elementary School is becoming a reality.
An open house is planned for Sept. 13 to let parents and community members in to see the finished product.
“The new East Rockingham Elementary School is nearing 100 percent completion with furniture, computers and smart boards being installed this week,” Richmond County Schools Associate Superintendent Dr. Robert Beck said Wednesday. “Contractors are busy installing an irrigation system and repairing areas on the campus that were washed out due to the torrential rains that Richmond County experienced over the last several days.
Teachers have been notified that they may begin setting up their rooms next week.”
The building is 81,000-square feet. Kindergarten through second grade will be housed on the first floor, while third through fifth grades will have class upstairs.
“East Rockingham Elementary School is a state-of-the-art handicapped accessible public school facility with all the modern amenities including two student computer labs, wireless capabilities, computer search stations in the library, an automated fire suppression system, a state-of-the-art kitchen, full service elevator, medical clinic where nurses can see children and a beautiful gymnasium and dining room.” Beck said. “The administration and staff look forward to getting started with the students on Aug. 25.”
Principal Keith McKenzie said he’s heard nothing but positive things from the community, and the school’s faculty and staff.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful facility,” McKenzie said this week. “I’ve been impressed with it tremendously since the first time I saw it. I’m struck by how many decisions the school board made based on what is best for the children, and also on the needs of teachers in the classroom. A lot of thought went into building this school.”
He said visitors from other school districts considering building their own new elementary schools have also been impressed by the facility.
“The size of the classrooms is just phenomenal,” McKenzie continued. “All our special classrooms - like music, art and P.E. - are large, and they’re all located on the east side of the building with the cafeteria. This is really convenient for our teachers as they move kids around the building, as opposed to having these rooms spread throughout the building.”
For East Rockingham teachers, like last year’s Richmond County Schools Teacher of the Year Kate Murray, settling into a brand-new classrooms offers a clean slate.
“When I moved to Rockingham four years ago, the classroom at Rohanen had things left behind from other teachers and was already kind of set up,” Murray said. “The first year you’re kind of nervous about meeting the kids and getting everything ready, so for me this will be a fresh start and a chance to set up my own classroom the way I want it.”
At Rohanen Primary, where Murray taught first grade, she’d also already come to know most of her students, whereas at East Rockingham she’ll be walking in fresh.
“At Rohanen the kindergarten room was right next to mine, so I got to know most of the kids around the hallways, but this will be unique because we’re bonding two different schools together,” Murray said.
Among the features of the new building McKenzie is most impressed with is the capacity of the school’s infrastructure to accommodate technology in the classroom as it becomes available.
“There was a lot of thought put into what is going to happen to education in the 21st Century,” he said. “As technology moves forward, we’ll be able to move forward with it. We’re set up with wireless Internet access, so that you can log on from anywhere in the building, and there was a lot of thought put into what we’ll need tomorrow.”
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.