AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s new lockers, new desks and brand new smart boards for hundreds of students and teachers starting school next week in Richmond County.
NewsChannel 6 toured inside the new Murphey Middle School, on T.W. Josey Comprehensive High School’s campus, where just a few years ago parents shared concerns about mixing younger and older students.
The state of the art building merges nicely with Josey, but what we found after walking through that building and around the campus is that there is minimal contact between middle and high school students and several 21st Century features.
You may remember these concerns from parents who spoke at a Rightsizing meeting at Josey more than three years ago.
“It’s one thing when your child comes home and says mama what is oral sex? It’s another thing when your child comes home and describes it to you,” one parent said.
Another shared with the crowd at that February 2014 meeting, “Our kids are more mature now and the little girls look older than they are.”
That Richmond County Rightsizing meeting is where parents learned that Murphey Middle School as they knew it would be closed and rebuilt right next to T.W. Josey. Fast forward to Monday and doors will open with parents’ concerns in mind.
We walked though the new school with RCBOE’s Facilities Services Senior Director Benton Starks. He described how the students will be separated.
“They share the same cafeteria, but they don’t share the same lunch periods,” Starks explained. “Both have their media centers in both areas. The larger media center is in the high school. If there is some kind of special function they can use it. Some of the music departments can be used together. We have two separate gyms in this facility.”
All students will use the same bus area, but will separate when dropped off. Inside, that same café where parents learned about the plans has transformed into a newer, larger space with a school resource officer watching the dividing line between the middle and high school.
“We have a state of the art building with a lot of wiring and connectivity for computers and bring your own technology,” said Starks as he showed off the new education area.
Classrooms offer the modernized group style teaching and “smart boards” will go up this week too.
“We have STEM labs. We have multiple science labs and biology and CTAE opportunities,” he added.
The new, $15 million building will hold 650 students. The old Murphey building has new plans.
“A large portion is [demolished]. We are seeking a buyer. I believe we have a buyer for the old site and you will be seeing that soon. [It will be] Something interesting for the community,” he said.
That new facility went up with SPLOST dollars and state of Georgia capital improvement money. The contractor was R.W. & Associates, Inc.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins