Wednesday, August 10, 2005

TOP STORY >> McRae starts new chapter with merger

Leader staff writer

IN SHORT: An open house will be held for the new Beebe Middle School, which was McRae High.

Open house will be held at Beebe Middle School between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 18, and Dr. Belinda Shook, school superintendent, says she believes those who attend will be pleasantly surprised by what they see.

The new school is the old school in McRae and workers have been busy all summer getting it ready for the fifth and sixth graders from all over the district who will be moving in Aug. 19.

Virtually every part of the campus has been improved. The gym has been refurbished inside and out. And the stage has been removed from the cafeteria to make room for more tables.

But perhaps the biggest improvements have been made at the old high school, where the rooms have been repainted and tiled and equipped with new marker boards.

“It looks so good,” Shook said Tuesday.

The library at the old high school is now the Middle School band room. The old home economic cottage is now the library. The choir room is across from the band room.

“There going to have the coolest stuff up there,” said Shook and she wasn’t referring only to the accommodations, which also include a new computer lab.

A teaching concept called team teaching will be used at the school.

The almost 500 students will be divided into four groups, two fifth-grade groups and two sixth-grade groups. Each group will have five or six teachers who will see them every day. The teachers will coordinate their lesson plans to complement each other.

But just as important, according to Scott Embry, assistant superintendent over curriculum, the teachers will meet to discuss the progress of the students in their groups so each student will have a team of teachers looking out for them.

And at the same time, the students will get to change classes much like the will in higher grades.

It’s a middle school concept of teaching that is possible in great part because the students will be housed on a campus by themselves.

And the hope of the administrators who pushed for moving the students to the campus when it became clear that the Beebe campus was filling up is that it will be a good time for the students.

The estimated cost of renovations at the campus was $375,000, but Shook said she thinks the actual cost might be a little higher.

The old Beebe campus maintenance building has been renovated at a cost of $47,000 into what Shook likes to call “the shuttle lounge.”

Assistant Superintendent Hal Crisco, over transportation and facilities has referred to it as the “staging area” for shuttling students from Beebe to McRae.

The building has new metal siding and new wiring and looks like a physical education building, but Shook says it should be a comfortable place for the students to wait for a ride to McRae.

Figuring out how to provide them with breakfast is still being worked out, she said. Some will probably eat at Beebe and some at McRae.

But some will likely be given sack breakfasts on the shuttle buses which will be leaving as soon as they fill up, she said.

Parents who drive their children to school will be able to drop them off at the school bus garage on Center Street so they won’t have to drive onto the Beebe Campus of the morning.
Those parents who want to take their children to the Middle School may do so, she said.

Shook says she is confident all the details will be worked out and the move will go smoothly. But as for the old campus with the new sign Beebe Badger sign in the middle of McRae. “People will be amazed,” she said.