Bookbags in tow, middle school pupils head to class side-by-side in the hallways with some almost 6-foot-tall high school students.
"I like the feeling of going to classes by myself and having lockers," said Craig Hinson, a seventh-grader who came from Morgan Road Middle School, where he said pupils walked in groups during class changes.
It's the first school year A.R. Johnson has offered seventh- and eighth-grade classes.
School officials say the transition has worked well.
"I love it," Assistant Principal Lou Anne Grove said. "It is unique, and you see that bond between the middle school and high school students."
The change was approved last year after an expansion of the school. A.R. Johnson has added 15 teachers. With the new grades, enrollment has increased from 367 students for grades nine through 12 last year to 644.
Seventh-grader Devin Carter, 12, said he now has more class periods and teachers, and he likes the interaction with those in higher grades.
"That's cool," he said. "Some of my friends are high-schoolers."
Devin is among 119 first-time seventh-graders at A.R. Johnson this year. There are 108 new eighth-graders.
High school students at A.R. Johnson have chosen one of two tracks to follow in their studies: health science or engineering. Middle school students, Mrs. Grove said, receive a 50-50 split of instruction in the two tracks. By the end of their eighth-grade year, they must choose a track to follow from ninth through 12th grades.
School officials said demand was high this year for the middle school program, with 785 applications filed. Students were screened based on their grades, recommendations of teachers and others and their CRCT results. They then had to make a certain score on a reading and math test to be accepted.
Mrs. Grove said having middle school pupils at A.R. Johnson is helpful in that "we get to groom our own students" two years earlier.
Other Richmond County magnet school changes are in the works. Lucy C. Laney High School added an Advanced Placement academy this year and will allow any Richmond County student to apply next year.
A new standalone magnet high school is being planned for the school system's old bus depot at Augusta Technical College after a new depot site is established at Lumpkin Road and Mike Padgett Highway.
Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Two Richmond County magnet schools were honored Tuesday for their SAT scores.
The Governor's Office of Student Achievement said A.R. Johnson Health, Science and Engineering Magnet School and John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School received recognition in the Governor's Cup.
A.R. Johnson was named a regional winner for 3-AAAA, according to a school system news release. The school will receive a $1,000 grant and a trophy. Davidson was recognized as the top scorer in the AAAA class for the second consecutive year.
Regional winners were selected based on three-year average gains in SAT scores.