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South Salem holds sneak preview
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As the summer winds down, families return from vacations with anticipation of getting their children ready for the upcoming school year.

 The new school year brings with it a sense of excitement and a chance for new opportunities.

South Salem Elementary School opened its doors a bit early, holding a sneak preview Monday to allow prospective parents and students a look at Newton County's newest school.

Situated between Ga. Highway 81 and Brown Bridge Road on Salem Road, South Salem is the county's thirteenth elementary school and will pull students from Livingston, West Newton, Porterdale and Oak Hill elementary schools.

Several staff members including Principal Holly Dubois were on hand to greet visitors, dole out plates of barbecue pork and give tours of the facility. Judging by Monday's turnout, it looks like the community is ready.

"The response we had certainly exceeded my expectations," Dubois said. "Students and families seemed to be very pleased with the school and excited about the upcoming school year."

A quick tour of the 117,000 square-foot building reveals an oddity not seen in any other elementary school throughout the district. South Salem is the first two-story elementary facility. To aid in janitorial services and for handicapped access, an elevator facilitates easy movement between the first and second floor.

The school will operate 43 classrooms and is expected to usher in 750 students this fall.

 Among some of the amenities, each classroom is outfitted with state of the art technology including Promethian ACTIVboards and computers in each classroom.

Although the media center has more empty shelves than full right now, there are 12 work stations for internet researching and two separate computer labs will allow class-sized instruction.

"The building is very impressive, and I think that Newton County should be very proud to have a school system that is dedicated to building state-of-the-art facilities," Dubois said.

The administrative staff is far from inexperienced. Dubois and assistant principal Sherri Thomas move over from Fairview where they served in the same capacity, and assistant principal LaSharon McLain transfers from Heard-Mixon.

Several of the teachers are seasoned veterans as well. Music teacher Marie Webb taught in NCSS at Veterans Memorial Middle School for five years before spending the last two at Eagle's Landing Christian Academy in Henry County.

 This year Webb returns to the county and says she is excited about coming back.

"I love public schools," Webb said. "

Webb said she missed public schools and saw an opportunity to get back to what she enjoys most, teaching music. Her class will focus on rhythm instruments as her room contains African drums and she will include lessons on guitar as the school is outfitted with enough guitars to teach a full class.

"The kids really get into the percussions," Webb said. "Look at how much of today's music is driven off the percussion. The African drum is probably the most known of the instruments."

Unlike Webb, first-year first grade teacher Jessica Jordan is new to the classroom but said she has some familiarity with the technology she'll use and that will help her transition into her first job.

"I'm used to all the great technology; this is all we used in college," Jordan said. "I've heard great things about Ms. Dubois. The people who have worked with her tell me she asks a lot of you, but I am definitely up to the challenge and am excited about working in a new school."

South Salem officially opens for business on July 23 for new teacher orientation and returning teachers report two days later.

 The school will hold a traditional open house on July 31 and students will arrive the next day as class begins on Aug. 1.

"I can't wait until Aug. 1. School is not school without the children," Dubois said. "A tremendous amount of time and planning has taken place over the last six months to make sure that South Salem has a successful opening and that our students have a great first year."

From the administrators and teachers to support staff and janitorial personnel, the levels of experience are as diverse as the people themselves.

 Regardless of experience everyone will be new at the school and Dubois says she can already tell good things are on the horizon.

"After the turnout at the sneak preview, seeing the awesome support from parents and the community, I know that South Salem is the beginning of something great," she said.