Originally created 08/04/06

Middle school dedicated, but still unfinished



Columbia County schools Superintendent Tommy Price recalls a time when he would drive past a shrub-riddled patch of land on Hereford Farm Road and wondered what might become of it.

On Thursday, he helped dedicate a new Evans Middle School building, which sits next to a new system administration building, on that very piece of property.

"We've been waiting a long time for this," Mr. Price said of opening the new school at its dedication ceremony.

Evans Middle eighth-grader Aubri Middleton said she is pleased with her new 43,000-square-foot school.

"It's really nice," she said. "It's big. It's new. I can't wait to start."

The school replaces the old Evans Middle on the corner of Belair and Washington roads. That property was sold in 2004 to a group of Augusta and Atlanta developers, who plan to turn the property into a retail center.

The $4.8 million made from the sale was used to help pay for the new $15 million school.

Former Evans Middle teacher and board member Mildred Blackburn received a pennant and a brick from the old school.

"Some things are worth more than gold," Ms. Blackburn said of the gift.

Demolition of the old school is set to begin later this year, said Vic Mills, chief executive officer of Blanchard and Calhoun, one of the companies that bought the 21-acre property from the board.

While recognizing the history of the former school site, which was the oldest existing building in the system still used as a school, Evans Middle Principal Mike Johnson pointed to a banner hanging behind him that read, "Tradition starts here."

"There is a lot of history associated with the other school building, but it's time to start making new memories and history," he said.

Although classes begin at the new school today, some construction is still ongoing. Two classrooms at Evans Middle still require some finishing touches and work in the gymnasium might continue into September, school system facilities manager Tim Beatty said.

Maintaining a tight construction schedule for the school proved challenging, officials said.

"I was down here the other afternoon and I wasn't sure it was going to happen," school board Chairman Wayne Bridges said.

Echoing Mr. Bridges statement, Mr. Price said, "I was down here just this morning and I went back to my office and cried and prayed."