The new Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School opened for students and staff Thursday, the first day of the second semester, after the initial move-in date had been pushed back several months by construction delays.
The inaugural class of the district’s newest high school has been housed at the old Lamar Elementary School building on Baker Avenue since school began in August. They were expecting to move to the new building on Augusta Technical College’s campus in October.
Principal Renee Kelly said the chance to learn in a technology- and career-focused campus that is architecturally striking was worth the wait.
“When the students walked in here this morning, they were just in awe,” Kelly said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”
Students started the day with a tour of the three-story building, including the culinary arts kitchen, banking room, broadcast studio and sprawling common area surrounding the cafeteria.
Kelly then instructed the school’s nine teachers to assign a one-page essay in which students described what kind of impact the school could have on their education and how they could use that experience to have an impact on the world. Students were also asked to brainstorm what they’d like to contribute to the school’s first yearbook.
“I wanted to make sure they had a voice,” Kelly said.
The $22 million school was built using money from the one-cent special purpose local option sales tax. The focus of the magnet school is to have every student choose a career path from the culinary arts, banking, computer networking and broadcasting tracks.
The choices will expand in the coming years when the automotive area and other laboratories are completed.
For the debut year, the school admitted only a ninth-grade class and will add one grade every year, with a capacity of 750. The district initially accepted 180 students out of 700 applicants from across the county for the 2012-13 class, but the construction delays caused about 40 students to lose patience and return to their zone schools before the school opened, Kelly said.
At the school Thursday, finishing touches were still being done.
Stacks of books remained in boxes in the library and information technology specialists were programing computers. Some areas still needed a coat of paint and district employees were moving equipment and furniture.
Social studies teacher Willie Robinson said there was excitement in classes Thursday despite undecorated classrooms and some Promethean boards not fully hooked up.
“Just to be able to share this experience and be a part of the first class to use this school is amazing,” Robinson said.
Destini Murray, 14, said she plans to make her high school experience count at the school. She plans to join the swim team and other sports and hopes to help paint a mural on campus so future classes never forget the inaugural group.
“It almost feels like you’re in college here,” said Murray, Miss Freshman for the student council. “You’re meeting new people, experiencing different things. I want to do it all. I want to be in everything.”