A groundbreaking ceremony was hosted by the Barrow County School System on Sept. 16, marking the start of construction for the district’s 10th pre-K through fifth-grade elementary school.
Scheduled to open in August 2023, the new school, which has the working title “Barrow Innovation Campus Elementary School,” is intended to alleviate the crowded student populations on the county’s south side, including Bethlehem, Kennedy, Yargo and Auburn elementary schools.
“We just registered over 1,200 students this year. It was a huge increase for us — almost an entire middle or high school,” said superintendent Chris McMichael.
Although the district doesn’t show a need for another elementary school right now, "there is no timeline,” McMichael said.
“We’ve got crowded schools with Kennedy and Yargo being the main two really pushing capacity right now, so we decided we really don’t need to wait on this,” he said.
The rezoning process for the new school will begin in August 2022.
The 11,150 square-foot, single-story building will feature 50 classrooms, an art room with an outdoor patio, a cafeteria with a stage and full-size kitchen, two separate playfields, two STEM labs, a multidisciplinary computer lab, a full-sized basketball court and “state-of-the-art” energy management, fire alarm and computer network systems.
Additionally, a secure vestibule at the main entry will be installed as well as card reader access to selected doors. Local tax dollars and ESPLOST proceeds will fund the project, except without the usual addition of funds from the Georgia Department of Education.
What’s unique about the innovation campus, officials said, is the “shared campus concept,” where schools from elementary level to college level can be attended across one large campus. The innovation campus elementary school will be adjacent to Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy for high school students, which opened in August 2020, on the same campus. Lanier Technical College also shares the campus as well as a future middle school, which will likely open in 2025.
“We looked at a lot of different magnet schools and charter schools and we modeled pretty much on that,” said McMichael.
However, BCSS added transportation options to accommodate students who would otherwise lack reliable means to travel off-campus independently, officials said.
To clear the transportation obstacle, the district runs shuttle buses to and from the innovation campus and Winder-Barrow and Apalachee high schools.
“We made sure to provide that transportation that a lot of these types of schools don’t offer,” McMichael said. “One of my big things is it needs to be accessible to everybody.
“In Barrow County, if you want to graduate high school, you have to work not to. We’ve got a little bit of everything.”