The new McAllister Elementary School opened its doors Monday morning to more than 800 students, including aptly-named kindergartener McAllister Barr.
McAllister was a bit apprehensive on her first day at McAllister. Asked how excited she is about her new school, the 5-year-old smiled shyly and clung to her father, Chris Barr.
“I think a little nervous, definitely excited – I think a lot of emotions for her,” he answered for his daughter as she held his hand. “Going from pre-K to kindergarten, the surroundings, how big the school is, I think is a little intimidating for a 5-year-old.”
She wasn’t the only one who walked wide-eyed into the new school on Monday. Whereas south Bryan County students are accustomed to attending elementary schools with only a couple of grade levels, McAllister is the first in the district built for kindergarten through fifth grade.
“It’s such a large school that the traffic doesn’t become a problem inside,” Principal Mary Ann Tiedemann said. “Once the students get in the hallway, it’s not congested. We have lots of room to move.”
Teachers and PTSO volunteers were stationed at the front doors and in the hallways to guide students who needed a little help finding their classrooms.Traffic also moved smoothly outside the school, as McAllister’s buses dropped off students “without any interruptions” on the school’s first morning, Tiedemann said.
McAllister did have a first-day glitch, when a Coastal EMC crew installing light poles in the parking lot struck a water line. The broken water main was fixed shortly after 11 a.m., according to Bryan County Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher.
"They did not have water for a short period of time," Brooksher said. "School went on as normal."
McAllister Elementary still needs a few finishing touches – namely some landscaping and the school’s name being added to the brick entrance sign that is blank for now. However, “almost everything is done” at the state-of-the-art school, according to Tiedemann.
“I think it’s as much fun for me as it is the kids,” she said. “We kind of walk around with our jaw dropping open at all the different things that we see.”
Having a K-5 school in Bryan County is a welcome change for parent Leslie Paschall. Her fifth-grade, second-grade and first-grade children all are attending McAllister this year.
“That helps a lot because, last year, I was going to three different schools,” Paschall said.
Parent Lori Carter agreed as she walked her two children – first-grader Jack and kindergartener Molly – to their classrooms.
“I like that they get to stay here, for six years for Molly and five for Jack,” Carter said. “We love it that (the school) is close by and it’s big and new, and we’re going to have a lot of fun here.”
McAllister Elementary has a 1,000-student capacity and welcomed about 820 on its first day, according to Tiedemann.The $19 million school was built with a combination of state, local and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funds to accommodate the growth in south Bryan County.
“It’s fairly impressive,” Barr said. “I’m glad the people who make the decisions had some foresight to look at the county, the expansion, and constructed the school to where they can easily expand it to accommodate the county’s growth in the future.”
McAllister’s opening reunited Tiedemann with some of her former students. She was Richmond Hill Primary School’s principal for 10 years before coming to MES.
“If they’re in fifth grade now, we had them in kindergarten and first grade,” Tiedemann said. “It’s good to see them all back together again.”
A group of Tiedemann’s former teachers at Richmond Hill Primary also have joined her at McAllister, along with some teachers from other Bryan County schools and other teachers who are new to the school district.
“It’s a really good group and they all seem to be working together really well,” Tiedemann said. “I have tremendous support here – a lot of veteran teachers that I know that they know what they’re doing.”