Carroll students to begin classes in new facility [Dothan Eagle, Ala.]
(Dothan Eagle (AL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) March 10--OZARK -- For the first time last year, Carroll High School sophomore Rachael Dotson walked down the same halls to attend classes as her grandmother had as a student years ago.
This year, Rachael will be among the estimated 750 other high school students who will become part of a new chapter in CHS history. On April 1, they are expected to be the first classes to attend the new high school facility that is adjacent to where the current building now sits.
The longtime dream turned reality for Ozark City Schools began three years ago with the district's receipt of a $22,074,000 Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCAB).
School officials said new technology, new furniture, additional complexes and safety measures are among the differences between the two buildings. State-of-the-art instruction through the high school's new academy structure has also been implemented to prepare students for some of the most popular and rigorous careers in today's economy.
"We've got a lot of things going in the right direction at just the right time," CHS Principal Joey Brannan said.
"Our goal is to get our students more qualified and better prepared than students anywhere else for the next phase of their lives. We have a building now that can truly serve the needs of our students."
A new campus
Ozark city and school leaders had discussed for years the proposition of building or renovating the current CHS building, which opened in 1955.
Brannan said flooding inside the building during heavy rains has become common. With new technology and other growing needs inside the classrooms, he said the building no longer had enough power to accommodate the students.
"If you run a copier on two different ends of the hall at the same time, you'd trip the breaker," he said.
"Next year's kids will be given either a notebook or a laptop to use, none of which would have been capable in this (current) building. This building is to the point where it doesn't serve the needs of our kids anymore."
In the new building, Brannan said state-of-the-art technology is in every room.
He said enough classroom space is available to seat 1,100 students, and laboratories on the campus' different wings are large enough to store all supplies and specimens for even some college-level projects.
The "Main Street" area of the building opens up from one end of the school to the cafeteria, and the halls on each wing are designed so officials can see instruction in multiple classrooms at one time.
The new school has a practice gym and a main gym so that school basketball and volleyball games can take place on campus.
He said the new building is highly secure, with doors throughout the building locking each time a tardy bell rings or students are in class. There are also classroom areas that double as three safe rooms with reinforced walls and windows that can sustain winds between 180 and 200 miles per hour.
"If we had a tornado warning, we can bring students in these sections instead of putting them in the hall, although some kids could still be in the halls," he said.
"The big metal doors we have could also be used if there was a fire that needed to be contained in one part of the building, or let's say there was an intruder that got on one particular hall. We can shut the doors and contain them to where they are. Even the courtyard is blocked by glass so no one can come in from the outside."
Brannan said the classrooms in the new building are connected to each other.
The new facility is about 136,000 square feet. The campus is about 190,000 square feet altogether.
"One of the biggest compliments I've probably heard is that the new building doesn't look as much like a high school as it does a college campus," he said.
Brannan said about 80,000 square feet of the current building was used in the new campus for its gym and athletic complex. The remainder of the current building to 600 hall is expected to be demolished, likely in May, and graded for use as parking and a practice field for band and JROTC students.
The 600 hall is then expected to be used as the district's Opportunity Academy, an alternative learning school required by the state to operate in a standalone facility. The academy currently operates behind Flowers Center for the Performing Arts in Ozark.
Brannan said the district's Career Center, across from the main campus, will still be used for some industrial arts courses and to accommodate students from different districts who take career technical classes at CHS.
The health science academy at the career center will be located at the new campus, he said.
CHS masonry students are expected to make improvements at the school's football stadium so it will better match the new school, including new ticket booths and brick columns.
Brannan said projectors and smart boards in the current building will be used in the district's other schools.
An academic concept
Brannan said several months of research by Diane Holman, the district's assistant superintendent, and Dana Griggs, the director of secondary instruction and career and technical education, prompted more study into the possibility of academies at the new high school.
Brannan said district officials traveled to multiple states to study the concept and determine what would best serve students in Ozark, as well as meet with students and parents after figuring what classes would need to be added.
The end result was the offering of several academies in Ozark: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); business; fine arts; health science; human services; ROTC; and industrial arts.
"We looked at schools that were all-academy and required an application, and some that only had a couple academies. What makes us unique is every student will be in an academy from wall to wall," he said.
"This year, 96 percent of our kids will be career completers, which means they've taken a minimum of two classes in their concentration area plus a class in another academy. My understanding is we are the first school in the state ever to do that."
Brannan said the district's goal is to have each student take as many classes in their academy as possible to give them a true advantage in college and in the workforce.
"We want it to be that because they went to CHS, when a business or a school looks and sees they've had four or five business or other academy classes on their transcript already, they will be at an advantage ahead of other students," he said.
The district has been awarded a $405,000 grant over three years through the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Education Partnership to assist in the academies. Griggs said the grant will be used for projects that include strategies to infuse STEM principles throughout the curriculum. Equipment the grant will provide includes robotics equipment, high quality audio/visual recording and broadcasting equipment for a new studio.
Alabama Power, the state's largest power company, also said it would partner with CHS' academies in coming years.
Brannan said officials intend to add more academies in the future, including one for mass media and criminal justice, in which he said many CHS students have dual enrollment at Wallace Community College.
The new building has a recording studio and television studio expected to be certified for the industry and used to record and edit highlights from community and school events, such as games.
Brannan said he hopes to get to a point where all academy and core classes will be offered on the same hall, although this year, core classes will be offered throughout the building and academy classes offered in their respective pods.
Officials said the mere existence of the new facility shows the possibilities rendered through perseverance and research, as the high school almost "didn't happen" when residents voted down a referendum for additional property tax to fund the school.
The money received for the building is a result of stimulus funds during President Barack Obama's first administration that district officials discovered was available.
Brannan said the new building project stayed within the QSCAB monies received.
He said other possibilities in the new building appear endless, including hopes to become more interactive with local businesses and to host athletic tournaments in the school's gyms.
"The old building had electrical limitations, to go along with other limitations. We couldn't offer all that this building allows," he said.
Those possibilities are among others CHS 10th-grader Ashlee Womack said she looks forward to experiencing.
"I've had some good experiences in this (current) building, but I've had some bad ones too, like when it's cold," she said.
"The new school is hopefully going to be better and give a little more hands-on learning."
(c)2013 the Dothan Eagle (Dothan, Ala.)
Visit the Dothan Eagle (Dothan, Ala.) at www.dothaneagle.com
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