County's New Schools Ready for Students
For the Moore County school system, the beginning of a new school year is an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again.
Today, Crain's Creek Middle School starts off with a brand new slate as it opens its doors to 354 students from Cameron and Vass.
It is one of two new schools opening to students today. The other is West Pine Elementary.
Crain's Creek Principal Rose Cooper anticipates a day of "organized chaos" as everyone acclimates to the new facility and their new school identity as the black and gold Crain's Creek Falcons.
Though the past week has been a scramble to organize classrooms, receive last-minute deliveries and finalize student schedules, Cooper said that the experience has been an exciting venture.
"It's been a great opportunity," she said. "You're able to create a culture, a new learning environment, and you don't have to say, 'Well, that's the way we've always done it.' We get to try new ideas and see what works."
Though most teachers and students are coming from New Century Middle School, Cooper has emphasized team building and cooperation in meetings and activities with her staff. She wants to create an identity that is unique to Crain's Creek.
"We all come in with our own expectations of what we've had in our previous schools, but this is our opportunity to start fresh," she said.
With a new facility also come state-of-the-art resources for learning.
Each classroom is furnished with a Smart Board and four laptop computers. Document readers have replaced the overhead projector, and teachers will have the luxury of reserving laptops for each student during class activities.
Cooper anticipates more hands-on learning through the programs available on the Smart Boards.
"We're just at the tip of the iceberg right now with what we're doing," Cooper said.
Cooper has been surprised by the strong sense of ownership that the community has taken in the school.
"Everyone is willing to help and do what they can to support the opening of the school, which is really exciting," she said.
Parents have already organized a PTA, and volunteers are organizing athletic boosters for the upcoming fall sports season.
The days were busy leading up to the first day of school.
Custodian Neil Ratigan, along with his co-workers, polished floors, unpacked boxes and performed various odd jobs in preparation for students.
"I've been unloading trucks all summer," he said.
Media center specialist Lynne Harward also spent her summer vacation at the school, ordering library books, categorizing them and shelving them.
She said she is anxious for the school year to begin and for students to come utilize the center's many resources. Without students, she said, the media center is just a shell of its purpose.
"I want them to come and fill it, make it their own," she said.
'Exciting to Be Here'
Harward said the media center will be open in the mornings for students to come read, use computers or do homework. She said she hopes it will provide a welcoming setting where students can feel "at home with books."
Specialized education teacher Janie Taylor still had stacks of papers to go through on her desk Monday as she worked to organize her classroom in time for open house Tuesday night.
"I have a lot to do in the next 24 hours or so," she said with a laugh.
Taylor said she is excited about having a classroom furnished with new materials for hands-on learning, as well as a kitchen area and a washer and dryer in the adjoining room to allow her students to learn life skills for daily living.
"These kids need to know how to take care of themselves," she said.
Taylor joins the staff this year from Union Pines High School and has enjoyed learning the ropes of middle school along with her co-workers.
"Everybody is new together," Taylor said. "So you're not the only new kid on the block."
On the sixth grade hall, teachers crowded around a cluster of desks, discussing class schedules and comparing old notes from their previous schools.
All but three of the teachers are from New Century Middle School. The faces on the hall may be familiar, but the teachers welcome the opportunity to begin new precedents for learning at Crain's Creek.
For former New Century teacher Liz Jefferson, leaving the school where she taught for years was tough, but the chance to teach at a new school was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.
"We miss the sixth-grade teachers," Jefferson said. "It's bittersweet, but it's so exciting to be here."
Jefferson added that students have more opportunities to participate in school activities because of the smaller student body.
Before Crain's Creek was built, more than 900 students at New Century had to compete in order to participate in sports or school organizations.
"Here, there are more opportunities for involvement," Jefferson said. "That's a big part of middle school."
Down the hall, Kim Sparks, a music teacher, helps students Audrey Simpson and Audrey Van Arsdale rehearse a song they will perform at the school's dedication ceremony Friday.
Sparks said she looks forward to having the intimacy of a classroom setting in a new facility without having to worry if there is space to accommodate everyone.
She also hopes that the school can maintain the area's strong sense of community.
"I think a lot of us are excited to have that community feel with all those advantages of technology," Sparks said.
"A lot of us have those roots, and we want to remember those lessons from the past as we move forward to the future," Cooper said.
Simpson said she looks forward to having her own locker this year as a seventh-grader. Last year, at New Century, Simpson volunteered to share a locker with a classmate when there weren't enough lockers available for each student.
Simpson says she plans to look for familiar faces and make new friends as she navigates her way through the first few days in the brand new school.
She won't be the only one.
Contact Hannah Sharpe by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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