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Superintendent gives new McAllister Elementary 'A+'
Fifth-grade students sing "America the Beautiful" at McAllister Elementary School's grand-opening celebration. - photo by Photo by Paul Floecker

When McAllister Elementary School opened its doors for the start of the school year Aug. 3, the new campus in Richmond Hill still needed some finishing touches.

Six weeks — and some cosmetic additions — later, McAllister Elementary invited the community to a grand-opening celebration Sept. 17.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Bryan County Schools Superintendent Paul Brooksher said, “just seeing the community leaders throughout Bryan County and Richmond Hill come in and tour the school. They have no kids here, but you see their smiles on their faces and their expression of, ‘Wow, this is great.’”

Since the first day of school, McAllister’s grounds have been landscaped, awnings have been installed, parking-lot markings have been painted and the school’s name has been added to the brick sign at the front entrance.

“It kind of looks like somebody lives here now,” Principal Mary Ann Tiedemann said with a smile.

McAllister Elementary is one of two new school campuses in the county this year. The grand opening for Bryan County Elementary School in Pembroke is set for 5 to 6 p.m. Oct. 15.

MES welcomed about 820 students on its first day, and enrollment is now up to 840, according to Tiedemann. The school has a 1,000-student capacity.

“So there is some room to grow here,” Brooksher said.

“We all fit,” Tiedemann added. “We have plenty of extra room, rooms we don’t use, the hallways are huge. It’s really nice.”

Those large hallways gave two fifth-grade classes plenty of space to entertain their guests at the grand-opening celebration. The students sang “America the Beautiful,” “Yankee Doodle,” “God Bless America” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

“I am obviously proud of them for their hard work and effort in class,” MES music teacher Lori Roberts said. “These kids are wonderful to work with.”

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. Community leaders were so impressed by their visit to the campus that Brooksher was asked when the school district will build its next one.

“No rush right now,” Brooksher said, laughing. “We’re going to take a little bit of time off, but that level of excitement is wonderful.”

McAllister Elementary is the county’s first school built to house prekindergarten through fifth grade. The other elementary schools in South Bryan have smaller setups, with prekindergarten to first grade at Richmond Hill Primary, second and third grades at Richmond Hill Elementary and fourth and fifth at Carver Elementary.

Because it’s a larger school than most elementary students in the county are accustomed to, MES is about to begin a school patrol. The older students will monitor the hallways and help the younger ones if they’re lost, need help carrying something or simply require a gentle reminder to quiet down.

“It’s nice having pre-K to 5 — little clusters of each,” Tiedemann said. “The little ones like looking at the big ones. It’s kind of a different environment for Richmond Hill.”

The principal credited McAllister parents for being actively involved in their children’s school. Tiedemann said her schools always have had supportive parents in her 35 years in education, but never ones so willing to help as those at MES.

”I’ve had parents that would respond when you ask for help,” she said. “These come and ask you, ‘What do you need?’ before you say you need anything.”

Asked what grade he would give the new McAllister campus and its faculty and staff, Brooksher offered high marks.

“I’d give them an A+,” he said. “If there was anything higher, I’d give it.”

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