Jan. 26--VALDOSTA -- The Lowndes County School System will add a third middle school come fall.
Pine Grove Middle School will open its doors in August, welcoming students from the Northwest district to the new facility located on River Road.
The more than $24 million project began in February of 2008, with construction scheduled for completion in May.
The 139,826-square-foot facility will have 52 instructional units, including a gymnasium and media center, and will support 837 students.
As the school grows, classrooms will be added to support up to 1,250 students, said Mike Powers, executive director of facilities and operations for he Lowndes County School System.
The new school is located on 217 acres. The property will eventually house an elementary school, high school and an agricultural program for the entire system, Powers said.
The location for the new middle school was chosen after the system considered population locations within the county relative to the location of Hahira Middle School and Lowndes Middle School.
Until spring of 2008, the districts for the middle schools were split in half, with a north and south district. The new district lines leave the south end intact and divide the north into east and west sections, Powers said.
Once Pine Grove Middle School is opened each of the districts will have a middle school.
Currently, Hahira Middle School has more than 1,200 students, and Lowndes Middle School has more than 1,000 students.
The system prefers to keep the enrollment at both schools at 1,250, and while both are currently under that number, they have both been at and above that enrollment in the past, he said.
Rising eighth graders who live in the new Pine Grove Middle School district had until Friday of last week to decide if they wanted to finish out their middle school careers at their current school or move to Pine Grove Middle School.
Letters were sent out on Jan. 20 to let parents and students know that if they chose to stay at their current school they could. However, they would have to provide their own transportation to the middle school, Powers said.
"We can only provide transportation within district boundaries," he said.
Rising sixth and seventh graders within the district will automatically go to Pine Grove Middle School come fall.
In 2009, the school should have between 600 and 650 students enrolled, considering the number of children currently residing within the district, Powers said.
The middle school mascot will be the Viking, and the colors will be crimson and white. The possibility of changing the mascot and colors may arise once the high school is built.
Pine Grove's future
In the fall of 2010, Pine Grove Elementary School students will walk across new floors and into state-of-the-art classrooms.
The system will break ground on a $15 million replacement elementary school on Feb. 5, and construction is scheduled to be completed in May of 2010.
The elementary school will be one story and have 52 classrooms in two major wings. The school will be larger than the current elementary school, which has seen a decrease in enrollment since Dewar Elementary School opened.
"Before, Pine Grove had almost 1,100 students, now they have around 800," Powers said.
The proposed high school is still several years away, but plans and architectural designs are in the works.
Construction on the elementary and middle schools has decreased
the current SPLOST funds, and unless the county experiences a tremendous influx of high school age students, the high school is in no danger of severe overcrowding, Powers said.
The new high school will also be dramatically smaller than Lowndes High School, probably residing in the A or AA classification.