ROCK SPRING, GA (WRCB)- The first thing that gets your attention is the peaceful mile-long drive on a newly paved country road. Then it's the massive building's architecture, the design, the big clock. But when you step inside, you realize that Walker County's newest school isn't just different, it may very well be revolutionary.
Most of the attention has focused on Saddle Ridge Elementary/Middle's partnership in the iSchool initiative, which will put iPads in the hands and homes of students in grades 3-8. There are also other impressive sights, including a huge gymnasium, a roomy cafeteria, a large music room, wide hallways, a sprawling computer lab and Promethean Active Boards in each classroom.
In addition to all that, many visitors are wowed by another unusual sight. Thirty-two bathrooms. Not the traditional group bathrooms that school administrators have endured for generations. These thirty-two bathrooms are small and private, like the ones you have at home. No place for mischief, tormenting and bullying. No more students going home with a stomach-ache, because they were afraid to use the school bathroom, or it was too disgusting and nasty.
Principal Wendy Ingram says teachers and parents feel blessed to have such a beautiful facility. It was built to ease overcrowding at Cherokee Ridge Elementary and Lafayette Middle. The new Saddle Ridge is built to accommodate 679 students, and opening day enrollment in preK-8 was 440, so there's plenty of room to grow. Superintendent Damon Raines says the county's master plan includes a high school on the property, although that may be a few years away.
The arrival of the iPads is still a couple of weeks away, but teachers have been trained and are preparing students for a paperless, textbook-free style of learning. The days of back-breaking book bags are drawing to a close, and Saddle Ridge is blazing new trails. Raines said Walker County has been inching toward more technology-driven curriculum and if all goes as smoothly as expected, the Saddle Ridge iPad initiative could spread county-wide in the near future.
Principal Ingram said, "This school is for the community. We want to have art, we want to have programs on our stage, we want to be a resource for our neighbors. We had a great opening day, and now we're ready to grow."