It is a grandiose title, Center for Innovative Teaching.

But the plans are even more grandiose.

It is starting with humble beginnings, the former Russell Middle School, and big dreams.

School administrators have been planning the center for more than a year. Students are to begin classes there Tuesday.

Superintendent Chris McMichael has touted the center as a model for the region, state and nation.

He is supported by ArtsNow, a nonprofit Atlanta group that has offices in the building and that provides instruction in arts “integration across the curriculum,” and Sustainable Design Collaborative – Atlanta, which includes eight organizations that does one pro bono project a year.

SDCA selected Barrow County for its project this year, and it has produced a design for the remake of the middle school.

The remake is a wonderful concept. It is, for now, a pie-in-the-sky idea.

The primary problem, as always, is money. Barrow County schools are not poor, but neither are they rich.

It is a growing school system, and its needs are more along the lines of more schools, elementary and high, than the CFIT design.

But dreaming big is a welcome idea in schools.

It’s “Barrow Bold,” as McMichael might say.

The folks from the two nonprofits touted CFIT as something that might attract national attention for its teaching, for its physical configuration.

The CFIT concept is just getting started.

Lee Bane, Barrow County’s STEAM integration coordinator, is overseeing the CFIT program.

The notion of new ways to teach and learn, for teachers and students to learn, is not unique to Barrow County. But the school district is being bold.

It talks, a lot, about “best practices,” one of the current buzzwords in education, government and business.

It means using what works best.

The Barrow administrators have high hopes for combining classes that encompass art, dance and/or music with science, technology, math and writing.

Sounds a lot like Renaissance students. That was “best practices” when I was a student.

It meant a person who was educated in nearly all realms of thought and experience.

Right now, walk into CFIT and it looks much like an old school.

Look at the concept plans developed by SDCA and worlds open up. The plans use the school, its ductwork and electricity, for science lessons. It has gardens that encompass plants for food and for beauty and for artwork.

The front hall has classrooms designated for dance and music. ArtsNow instructors will teach those classes. They may use computer software to mix music and video.

The concept is an exciting one. It’s that nuisance of how to pay for it that keeps interrupting and getting in the way.

Ron Bridgeman is a reporter for Mainstreet News. He covers the Barrow County School System. Send him email at

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