Dr. J.V. Sailors, superintendent of the Anniston City Schools, is so pleased with the new middle school that has risen out of the mud at its McClellan Boulevard site that he wishes his office were out there.
And there’s nothing he’d like better than to give guided tours of the partially completed complex to anybody who wants to see it.
“It will be the finest middle school facility you’ll see in the state,” he says. “I haven’t seen anything that even comes close as far as design, facilities and extras.
BUT THAT’S just the building, he says. “Beyond that, the important part is for the program to be as strong as the facility. We’ve got the facility; now we’ve got to work on the program.”
The $5.872 million facility that has taken shape on the site is about half completed. Students are scheduled to move in at the beginning of the 1987-88 school year, but Sailors says if the contractor, Eugene Turner Construction Co., finishes early it is just possible seventh and eighth graders could be moved in during the Christmas recess this year.
The building, designed by Anniston architect S. David Boozer, incorporates an unusual plan that makes it a school within a school within a school.
It is, of course, one school. But separate sections of it are devoted to sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Students from the various grades are separated as soon as they arrive at the school, with each grade going to a different section of the plant. And students from the various grades rarely come in contact during the school day.
Then, within a grade, students are separated again, into smaller “schools,” each with its own set of four interacting teachers.
THERE ARE 12 classrooms in each grade. The classrooms are in clusters of four. Each student will spend much of his academic day in one of the clusters. Each cluster will be manned by a science teacher, a math teacher, a language arts teacher and a social studies teacher. Lockers for the students of each cluster will be located within that cluster. The students will be asked to name their clusters.
Each cluster will house up to 120 students.
“In the past in a traditional junior high school a teacher who teaches math all day says she teaches math,” Sailors says. “We want to convince them they’re teaching students.” The math teacher will also be concerned with what the student does in language arts, he says. The four teachers will share an office for planning. “They’ll get a feeling of teamwork, team planning, team sharing, team caring.”
In addition to the three academic clusters, each grade will have a support cluster of classrooms and offices. Housed there will be space for special education, offices for special education teachers and an office for a counselor. Each grade will have a counselor, and the counselor’s office will be in the wing where the grade is located. The school system is considering advancing the counselors through the grade levels with the students, Sailors says.
AN ADDITIONAL room will have a different purpose at each grade level, Sailors says. In the sixth grade section, the room will house trainable mentally retarded students. In the seventh grade section, an analogous room will house foreign language instruction, which will be available to all grade levels. In the eighth grade section, the room will house classes for gifted students.
Still another room at each grade level will be used as a science lab.
Foreign language beginning with the sixth grade? Science labs for sixth, seventh and eighth graders?
A large computer lab with 30 terminals will serve all grades. It is part of the Christine Callahan Media Center, the centerpiece of which is a large library. The media center is across a corridor from the administrative area with conference room, sick room, the usual secretarial space and offices for the principal and two assistant principals.
Nearby, and in sight of the assistant principals’ office is a room for in-house suspension.
THEN THERE are the electives.
A large room will house art classes. A home economics department will include a five-station kitchen, which can handle 25 students at a time; office space, a dining room area and a sewing room. “We will try to cycle all sixth grade students through home economics on an exploratory basis so they can decide in the seventh and eighth grades whether they want to take it,” Sailors says.
There is a choral room that will have built-in risers, office space, and practice rooms for small groups, a band room, and an industrial arts area. Sailors said all sixth graders will also be cycled through industrial arts.
Situated so that it can be closed off from the academic areas of the school are what could be termed the public areas — the gym, the auditorium and the cafeteria. Each is large enough to handle one grade of 360 students.
The auditorium will be available for community activities, Sailors says. “It will be a real nice auditorium.”
IN ADDITION to the gymnasium, two large rooms provide additional space for physical education activities. And a large play area outside will have two softball fields and outdoor basketball goals with space to stretch nets.
“When you tour the building and see the magnitude of it you begin to see why it couldn’t be built just anyplace,” Sailors says. He explains that the building is all on one level to meet all requirements for accessibility to the handicapped. There are no stairs in the building, only occasional slight rises in the floors of corridors.
The plant is located on 24 acres, which will be fenced and landscaped. Students will arrive at a canopied bus area and will enter through a canopied entrance. They will then be indoors all day unless their physical education activities take them outside.
The $5.872 million price tag covers only the cost of construction. It does not include the cost of the land the school is built on or the cost of furnishing the building. Sailors estimates the cost will total more than $7 million by the time the school is finished. The City of Anniston is paying $6.2 million of the cost. The remainder is funded with City Board of Education funds from the sale of its Woodstock property and some state funds for the purpose of site acquisition.