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Alternative school gets new name as renovations continue

The new McDuffie County alternative school now has an identity. School board members approved the name "McDuffie Achievement Center" at a called meeting Monday.

Principal Cecil Strong said the name was derived from responses to the survey on the school system's website. He plans to build on the acronym to help motivate the staff and students.

"When you think of MAC, you think of Mack trucks," Mr. Strong said. "And their symbol is a bulldog, also. And they're moving forward and making progress, and that's what we want to do - move forward and make progress."

Currently, MAC has a faculty of six that were approved by the board on Monday, also. Mr. Strong said a couple of those teachers came from within the school system, but the rest are new. He said all of them are experienced in the alternative school setting.

"Now that they've been approved, I've got to sit down with my faculty and come up with our mission, goals and things of that nature. Hopefully, we can build on what we already have in place with the county," Mr. Strong said.

The new school, which is being formed after the school board voted not to renew the contract with the Ombudsman Learning Center last year, will be in the old Pine Street Elementary School building on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street. The school system's maintenance department has been working to remodel the building.

"They are very capable and I'm impressed with their work," Mr. Strong said. "I don't see a problem why we won't be open the first day of school."

About a month ago, six of the board members walked through the building with Mr. Strong to validate what work needed to be done on the building. Chairwoman Georgia Hobbs said the board did not wish a reporter with The McDuffie Mirror to walk through with them at that time. Mrs. Hobbs said they were just seeing for themselves what the expenses might be and where they might be able to save money.

During a walk through last week, Mr. Strong showed classrooms that once were carpeted and now have tile floors, which he said makes the environment more sanitary. New transfer ducts have been installed for heating and air conditioning and the building is being painted.

"It's so much cleaner and fresh looking," Board Member Bob Smith said.

The original wood flooring was left in a few rooms, to "preserve as much as possible of the school's original makeup," Mr. Strong said. Besides looking good for the alternative students, the school board had another reason to spruce up the interior.

"The Head Start children walk through the building to get to the cafeteria, so this is their first impression of their school experience, so we need to make it a good one," Mrs. Hobbs said.

The biggest improvement, according to Mr. Strong, is the restrooms. Once located on the outside of the building, they have been enclosed with entry from the inside. And they've been separated, with the boys restroom on one end of the building and the girls on the other end.

Security cameras are now at each entry and in the inside of the building. The main doors also have a keypad entry for added security.

"The board is quite pleased with the progress of the remodeling and we are happy with our new principal," Mrs. Hobbs said.

Because the project is not finished, Comptroller Tom Smalley said there is no figure yet on the cost of starting up the school.

Mr. Strong does not yet know how many students will begin on the first day of school. He said the number is between 50-60 according to his projections by looking at grades. The school will serve sixth through 12th grade students who will attend either because they are required by discipline tribunal or because they are behind in their studies and need to catch up to grade level.

Mr. Strong said the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will have traditional, teacher-taught classrooms, and the high school grades will have computerized lessons. A reading specialist also will come into the school, splitting the time with other schools in the system. The state-mandated ratio for alternative schools is 15 students to one teacher.

Web posted on Thursday, July 09, 2009

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