Friday, October 14, 2011

TOP STORY > >Middle school officially open

Leader staff writer

Parents and community leaders walked down the halls of the new $31.5 million, 197,000- square-foot Sylvan Hills Middle School after a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

The modern building off Johnson Drive opened in August. It replaced the 56-year-old school built in 1955 as Sylvan Hills High School. Enrollment of sixth through eighth grades at the school increased 141 students from 656 last year to 797.

Many people had positive things to say about the school. Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman said the new middle school is great for the community.

“We’re excited about it. Everyone is positive about the school,” she said.

Hillman attended junior high in 1976 at the old middle school building.

“It looked the same as the day it closed (2011). We’ve come a long way since,” Hillman said.

The building separates grade levels into three separate “dens” or pods. Each pod has 16 classrooms, a conference room, a computer lab, a teacher’s workroom, a seminar room with seating for 100 students for projects or combining classes; and two commons area for students.

Hillman said having the grade levels separated in pods means fewer discipline problems and classes running more smoothly.

The school has nine separate science labs, three per grade level; two band rooms, two choir rooms and two art rooms. The school has six career-education classrooms, an athletic gym that holds 1,200 students and a practice gym. The cafeteria also has a stage.

Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Dr. Jerry Guess said the building shows the commitment of the community to the students and educators.

“It was built, engineered and designed well,” Guess said.

State Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood) said, “It is marvelous. The old middle school was not in great shape. It is something to look at with pride, a positive for the school district.”

“This was the largest crowd I have seen at a Sylvan Hills Middle School open house. It has brought the community and parents together, so it has to be good,” Nickels said.

Nickels’ daughter, Kris Smith, is the middle school’s band director. His grandson, Grant Smith, is a sixth-grader at the school.

“It is amazing. I like it. It is going to be a wonderful school,” Alderman Toni Butler said.

Alderman Ken Keplinger liked how the middle school is one building but separates the three grade levels. He also likes the school’s Zeroes Are Prohibited (ZAP) program.

When students don’t do their homework, they are pulled out during their lunch free time. Students eat and then finish their homework.

“ZAP needs to be in all the schools in the district,” Keplinger said.

Jacob Wagner, an eighth-grader, compares the new middle school to the old one. “The rooms are lot bigger. In this school you have to walk more, but it is inside and we have air conditioning, finally,” Wagner said.

“It is a lot more organized. I like the Promethean boards better than the white boards. There is no gum under the desks. It is a treat to be here and we should treat it a lot better than the old school,” Wagner said.