Two new schools opened their doors to Columbia County pupils on the first day of school Tuesday.
The new Columbia Middle on William Few Parkway opened with nearly 1,000 pupils, making it the county’s largest middle school. The $20 million, 51-classroom facility replaces the former school on Columbia Road.
The other new school was Evans Elementary, which cost $12.5 million and also has 51 classrooms.
“Coming from the old Columbia Middle School, it’s just the size of the building and the space it allows us,” Principal Steven Cummings said. “It just eliminates so many problems that we’ve had with overcrowdedness in the halls and kids can transition easily.
“Plus, it’s a beautiful building. It’s just nice to have a beautiful building.”
Health Education teacher Lynda Morris, who started her 19th year at Columbia Middle, attended the school as a student when it was Columbia Junior High School. The new building will take time to get used to, she said.
“It’s beautiful and we just still feel like we’re in a dream,” Morris said, adding she misses the old school a little. “Maybe the comfort of the familiar and the memories that are there. I just have so many good memories at that school.”
Sandra Carraway spent part of the day – her first as superintendent – at Evans schools. She said things went smoothly.
“I was at Evans Middle School to start the day and (Principal Michael) Johnson and his staff and the students went through the day like they’d been doing it all year long. … It went like clockwork.”
The only glitch during the first day was a school bus hitting a mailbox with its mirror, she said.
Carraway also greeted pupils headed into Evans Elementary.
“It was just a wonderful morning,” Carraway said. “The parents and children, you could tell they were just so happy to be there.”
Belair Elementary School closed at the end of last school year. Its population was split between Evans Elementary and Martinez Elementary, which is in the former Belair school while a new Martinez Elementary is built.
Carraway said attendance Tuesday was several hundred below the initial projection of 24,750 students.
“We expect to grow over the next several weeks, as is customary,” she said.