An Inside View…Hawfields Educational Complex
By Karen Carrouth, City-County Magazine, August 2000
Reprinted by permission
Alamance County’s newest educational facility opens later this month, making history as the county’s first combined elementary/middle school complex.
Hawfields Middle School and Audrey W. Garrett Elementary School, located in the Hawfields community, share a gymnasium in the center along with the offices, cafeteria and media center. The 210,000-square-foot-facility will house the elementary school on the west wing and the middle school on the east wing. Each school will have its own entrance and traffic patterns.
The purpose of building these two new schools is to relieve over-crowding in the eastern and southern attendance zones. In order to complete needed renovations at Woodlawn Middle school, principal Lynn Briggs and her staff and at least 793 students will be occupying the new middle school this first year.
We’re very fortunate to have this facility available which will allow quality instruction to continue uninterrupted and our students and staff will not have to work around construction,” Briggs said. She said that the question of identity should not be an issue as the Woodlawn students will occupy the Hawfields complex for one year.
“ We are Woodlawn Middle School and our students are very loyal. This is a temporary location for us while we await much-needed renovations at our school. The kids will adapt a lot quicker than we (the staff) do and they’ll be fine. The building does not make the school — the people do.”
Briggs said everyone was excited about moving into the new facility. “Moving itself is never a joy but it went smoothly,” she said.
Also awaiting students for the first day of school on August 16 is principal Mark Rumley at Garrett Elementary School. The capacity of the elementary school is 700 students although at press time, there were 575 students enrolled at the new school.
Rumley said he was looking forward to an exciting year.
“ It’s a wonderful place. The space is well-designed and it allows us to use creative methods of teaching. Everyone is positive and upbeat,” he said of the staff of 53, which include 36 teachers. The new school has pulled students from Alexander Wilson and South Mebane Elementary Schools, as well as transfers from other areas and families just moving in.
Combining the pre-K through fifth graders along wit the sixth through eight graders under one roof is a good idea, Rumley said, because of the economy of shared space. But the interaction between the students will always be controlled (so that a kindergartner will not be walking down the halls with an eighth grader.)
“ We can have some shared interaction such as in the cafeteria which has a moveable all for an assembly for all students. I also envision a tutorial program which could involve having the middle school students helping our students.”
Funding for the $24.5 million cost for the two schools came from a local school construction bond issue passed in November of 1997. The 80-acre tract of land, off Old Hillsborough Road and Highway 119 South, will feature practice fields as well as facilities for baseball, football, soccer, track, softball and tennis.
According to school planner Steve Taynton from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, there are probably some 50-60 complexes throughout the state which combine several grades under one roof. There are over 2,000 schools in the public school system in North Carolina. The majority of combinations are elementary and middle schools but a few systems have kindergarten through 12th grade housed in one facility. There are also other variations such as grades 4-8, preK-2nd grade or grades 3-6, depending on the populations and facilities available, he said.
“ The combined schools actually share few resources other than the kitchen and physical plant which heat and cool the building. There are issues to consider such as staggering dismissal times so that there will not be as many traffic tie-ups and making athletic fields available for the different age groups,” he said.
The completion of the new schools brings the total number of schools in the Alamance-Burlington School System up to 32, and the number will climb to 33 next year when Woodlawn Middle School students return to their renovated school. School spokesperson Becky Shoffner said there is already talk about adding another elementary and one high school in the future.