The last day at Newton High School might have seemed like chaos, but it was organized chaos, creating cherished memories for students as they attended classes at the school building for the last time. It was a bittersweet time for many, including alumni like myself. The school building will be remembered for its years of Ram pride.
As I walked through the school with NHS Principal Craig Lockhart on Friday, he pointed out teachers Karina Grewe and coach Bill Dolan, who were dressed for Hawaiian day, preparing for their summer vacation. We stopped in the auditorium to visit NHS senior William Mills, who this year organized an anti-bullying campaign for students and was preparing to host his last anti-bulling assembly. We also walked out to the baseball field, which was flooded with juniors enjoying a picnic in celebration of becoming seniors at Newton’s new building, just a few miles away on Crowell Road.
An empty cafeteria was the result of students having sack lunches on this last day. Staff members, such as math teachers Krista Flowers and Adele May, were there to guide students to their next classes. However, NHS junior Mykal Smith stopped for just a moment to share his anticipation of being a part of the first graduating class at the new Newton High School.
Several classrooms held packed boxes of books and school supplies, including Aaron Robinson’s class, where a handful of smiling students were ready and willing to shove a social studies book into a box for the summer. Across the hall, a sophomore world history class sat eagerly at a group of huddled desks, waiting for the last bell to ring.
The gym bleachers were scattered with students who talked to their peers while looking across Newton’s old gym floors for the last time. In the front office, parents and students met for their last early checkout of the year with school receptionist Nichelle Banks, who said she was excited to be moving to a brand new office.
The excitement of having a new space was also shared by NHS’s school nurse of 21 years, Linda Pitts, who was tending to one of her last students for the school year.
In the fall, students, teachers, faculty and staff will reconvene at the new Newton High School, leaving the old building behind. However, the commemorations of Newton High School will live on.
The new school, which sits on 117.7 acres, includes a 500-plus seat auditorium; an open commons area entrance; a gym that can accommodate 2,500 spectators; a practice gym; science labs; band and choral classrooms that are connected with rehearsal areas; a ROTC wing that includes office space, classrooms and a rifle range; engineering labs with a covered exterior work room, agricultural and art classrooms and even elevators for students and teachers to get to the different floors of the school.
The Newton County Board of Education voted to accept the low bid of $42.6 million for the construction of the replacement for NHS. As a part of the current five-year facilities plan, state capital outlay will pay for $29.16 million of the school with the additional cost being paid for with bonds.
As for that old building, outgoing NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said there is no final decision on its future.
He said school system officials have talked about keeping the newer wing of the old NHS to house the new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) initiative, and said that the auditorium will be used by the Newton County Arts Association.
Mathews said other parts of the current NHS facility would presumably be razed.