Bryan County Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher considers the process of opening a brand-new school simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking.
So even though the new McAllister Elementary School is set to open its doors to students Monday, Brooksher isn’t quite ready to relax.
“Not yet,” he said Tuesday. “I’ll breathe easier once we get two or three weeks in, and we get any kinks worked out.”
Bryan County’s 10 schools will have nearly 9,000 students enrolled for the start of classes on Monday, according to Brooksher, with a little more than 800 of those at McAllister Elementary. 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.
McAllister still has “some finishing touches and cosmetic items” that the contractor needs to complete on the inside and outside of the school, Brooksher said. However, he added, that will not interfere with the students’ classwork.
“Anytime you have a project that large, you’re going to have items that need to be corrected or modified,” Brooksher said. “But McAllister Elementary will be fully functional and ready to receive students on Aug. 3. Teachers are in their classrooms, and they’re ready to go.”
The same is true for the Bryan County Schools’ other new building this year. A larger Bryan County Elementary School was built to replace the old BCES campus, which had outgrown its 500-student capacity.
This will be Julie Gannam’s third year as principal of Bryan County Elementary. It will be the first time in her career she has opened — or even worked in — a new building.
“I’m super-elated for my teachers, students and staff to begin a new chapter in our brand-new school,” Gannam said. “We are excited to roll out the red carpet at the new Bryan County Elementary School on Aug. 3 and for many wonderful years to come.”
Along with the teachers and administrators, Bryan County’s bus drivers are gearing up for the start of school. Bus drivers are running their routes this week, Brooksher said.
For some drivers, that includes acclimating themselves with the new roundabout at Highway 144 and Belfast River Road. McAllister Elementary and Richmond Hill Middle School both are near the traffic circle.
“You’ll see a lot of yellow buses on the road this week,” Brooksher said. “I think that makes us more effective and efficient.”
McAllister is Bryan County’s first school built to house prekindergarten through fifth grade. Elementary students not districted for MES will continue to attend Richmond Hill Primary for kindergarten and first grade, Richmond Hill Elementary for second and third grades and Carver Elementary for fourth and fifth.
Veteran educator Mary Ann Tiedemann is McAllister’s first principal. She brings to the school 35 years’ experience in education, including the previous 10 years at Richmond Hill Primary.
“The principal has K-5 experience, coming from Richmond Hill Primary School,” Brooksher said. “We’re excited about the work she’s going to do.”
The superintendent acknowledged that Monday’s start of school won’t be perfect — no first day ever is.
However, Brooksher can’t help but lean between being excited and nerve-racked as the school calendar nears its first day.
“It is an exciting time to be the superintendent of Bryan County Schools,” he said.