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Schools under change

There's nothing like the beginning of a new school year.

"The start of a new school year is always an exciting thing," said Goshen High School Principal Gene Nelson. "It's one of the few things where you always have a new beginning."

This year, the school year will have an extra "new" feeling for both Troy City and Pike County students. Over the summer, changes have been started and completed and students will find themselves in a different atmosphere on August 6.

At Charles Henderson High School, construction on the new and improved administration office is complete except for the arranging of furniture.

"I am very pleased with it," said Principal Linda Felton-Smith.

Last year, she had her office in a trailer next to old administration building. This year, the principal gets a roomy office in the new wing of the building, complete with a private bathroom.

The building is also the new home of the school counselors and academic records.

"The counselors are all in here now and students can also get their records here," Felton-Smith said. "It is convenient."

The office also has handicap accessible men's and women's bathrooms; before there was only one restroom.

The CHHS weight room is also getting a little makeover, including a new floor. Felton-Smith said work in that room should be done before schools starts.

The two biggest administrative changes come by way of the central office and Troy Elementary School.

Effective August 1, Felton-Smith will become the newest superintendent of the Troy City School System.

Juan Henderson will take over at the elementary school as the interim principal for the 2003-2004 school year. Principal Geoffrey Spann is on loan to the State Department of Education to help area schools implement the Alabama Reading First Initiative.

"Everything is going smoothly right now," Henderson said. "The vice principals and teachers are making the transition smooth."

Henderson is the vice-principal in charge of third-fifth grades. His new responsibilities now include kindergarten-second grade.

"There's more responsibility of course," he said. "I have to look more at the total program rather than a specific area."

Henderson has been at TES for a number of years now and knows school procedures inside and out. So other than seeing his face when students are sent to the principal's office, nothing will be different from last year.

Being the larger of the two systems, Pike County schools saw the most change this summer.

Soon after May graduations were over, construction began at Goshen Elementary School and Pike County High School.

PCHS will start the school year one building short. The new building, which is going up over the old Brundidge Consolidated School site, is expected to be complete after Christmas. It will house classrooms, a lecture hall with stadium seating and a branch of the First National Bank of Brundidge for the Business and Finance Academy.

The round building behind the main building also received a face-lift. PCHS Principal Terry Casey said the building will be ready in the fall and he will use it for classroom space this year.

He vacated the old Brundidge school last year in early anticipation for its destruction. Except for being "very tight," Casey said there won't be much of a change between this year and next.

The drive outside is also being reconfigured and it is beginning to take shape.

"It's going to be a very good year," he said. "But I'm really looking forward to having both buildings complete."

When the new building is finished, the second high school building will also be replaced.

Pike County Elementary School is going through a series of renovations that includes new floors, walls, paint and windows. Work, however, is moving at a "snail's pace," said Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

In fact, it's moving so slow, Bazzell is concerned that he will have to delay the elementary's first day of school anywhere from three to five days. He said a final decision would be made by July 31.

Goshen Elementary School is exactly on schedule. GenCon Associates Inc. construction foreman Marlen Glover said the building was a challenge, but his crew should have no problem making deadline.

"There's a difference in residential construction and commercial construction, just because commercial buildings are done on a larger scale," he said. "We're going to try to finish before Christmas."

GES Principal Rick Bragg said his tentative plans are to move kindergarten, first and second grades into the new building. That means that after Christmas, the sixth grades will move from GHS to occupy the old second grade rooms.

Bragg said the sixth graders will bring the elementary school's enrollment up at least 15 percent.

GHS Principal Gene Nelson said he is sorry to see the sixth graders go.

"They're such a part of this campus," he said. "But the elementary school is getting three tremendous teachers who have just done an outstanding job."

GES will start August 6 with new tiles in 16 rooms. In two buildings, workers removed center-isle lockers that were a safety concern because they created blind spots in the hallway.

Nelson said the tile will "create a brighter climate" in the school.

The gym at Banks Middle School also received a new look with a new floor and ceiling.

"Banks uses the gym as a community center," said Finance and Operations Director Tom Hicks.

"It will look very good once we're finished."

The system renovations are long overdue and when their finished, the buildings will reflect the quality of the students, staff and education in Pike County Schools.

"I believe the community, when they see the end result, will take a lot of pride in their schools and their communities," Hicks said.

Bazzell said workers have been out all summer pressure washing the exterior walls and buffing the floors on all of Pike County's school campuses.

"We're excited to join Dr. Bazzell in fulfilling his promises of clean and safe schools, friendly and courteous service, academic accountability and fiscal responsibility," Bragg said.