This fall, the school will move to its new location on Valley Street and will open to over 500 students. The 146,403-square-foot facility has 74 instructional units and features a media center, two computer labs, a gymnasium, art and music rooms as well as a dedicated lab for science, technology, engineering and mathematics coursework.
Before the buses headed out for the last time Friday, Principal Doug Knott shared his memories of his time at the school.
Knott, who has been the school’s principal since 2005, said administration and staff were exhausted from packing for the last couple of weeks, but said they were making every attempt to finish out strong as they normally do every year.
But it seemed most everyone at the school was excited and ready to move on to the new location.
“It’s not just the kids,” Knott said. “The parents and teachers might be even more excited than they are.”
He said he along with many other community members are grateful that all of the kindergarten through fifth-grade students get to take the trip down the street to the new school this fall, as the school is opening as a kindergarten through sixth-grade facility.
The new school has a capacity to serve more than 1,200 students and ample parking for staff and parents, allowing the school’s functionality and services to expand the location it had outgrown several years ago.
Yet among the staff, many of whom have spent most of their careers at the school, the imprint of Ball Ground’s rich history is tangible.
Wanda Cowart, the school’s bookkeeper, has worked for the school, which she attended as a child, for the past 10 years and also sent her daughter Julie there. Cowart’s first-grade teacher was Joy Mabry, who began teaching at the school in 1953. Now retired, the 80-year-old still works for the school district at the Teacher Resource Center.
Over the intercom, Knott reminded the students to keep reading over the summer at Ball Ground Library and to check the school’s website for an upcoming surprise event over the summer before letting the students go for the final time.
“Boys and girls, the next time you hear me, we’ll all be enjoying the riches of our new facility,” Knott said over the intercom. “I know we’re all so excited, but it’s also a sad day. Let’s all be thinking very kindly about our past at this school. I look so forward to seeing you each as you return next year to our new school.”
He said a virtual tour of the new school will be on the school’s website soon for students and parents to check out before the school’s first official function, the teacher meet-and-greet, is 2 to 4 p.m. on July 30.
Knott also encouraged the students to have fun with their family and friends over the summer before saying goodbye one last time.
“That concludes our announcements for this year and this building,” Knott said.
The teachers and staff, all wearing their Ball Ground baseball T-shirts, lined the front sidewalk to wave goodbye to their students for the last time.
Lynn Hughes, counselor at Ball Ground for the past 14 years, said she began working at the school the same year her daughter started kindergarten there.
“It is kind of bittersweet to leave,” Hughes said. “But I’m excited that I will have a separate classroom and office space… and there will be plenty of adult restrooms.”
Lisa Nations, a fifth-grade teacher, has been at Ball Ground for 29 years — it has been her first and only job out of college.
“There’s a lot of memories here,” Nations said. “I’m sad to leave, but we’ve been waiting a long time for the new school and there are a lot of neat things like the new technology that I’m looking forward to.”
Though officials with the city of Ball Ground have discussed turning the building into a community center, no definite plans for the location have been decided.
“I’m hoping they do something where it can be used for our community,” Nations said. “The school is really the center of our community.”