Smiths Station breaks ground on $40 million high school - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Smiths Station breaks ground on $40 million high school

By Andrew Wittenberg  - bio | email | Twitter

SMITHS STATION, ALA (WTVM) - It was a memorable day for education in Lee County, Alabama.

During a time when so many schools are seeing budget and staff cuts, there's a brand new school set to begin construction in Smiths Station.

It was a day worthy of striking up the band.

Dignitaries, faculty and students from Smiths Station broke ground on what will be a new, $40,000,000 Smiths Station High School.

"The economy's loss is our gain in getting a better price for it. The economy has an upside and a downside for us," Lee County School Superintendent Stephen Nowlin said.

But that hasn't stopped critics from asking why the Lee County School System is building a new, multi-million dollar facility while so many systems across the state of Alabama are dealing with cuts due to proration.

In the works long before the current economic crisis, Nowlin says it is also desperately needed.

"We started talking to the board of education in the fall of 2007 about the need for a project to deal with BRAC and to deal with all the trailers we have up there," Nowlin said.

"We have 44 portables in the Smiths Station attendance zone and there's 28 on the campus at the high school, so we had to get rid of those for safety purposes," Nowlin said.

Officials in Lee County are expecting a thousand students due to base realignment.

The new school will accommodate 1,500 students and can be expanded, which is an exciting development for principal Dr. Jason Yohn and the surrounding community.

"I'm really looking forward to what it's going to mean to our community and our school and look forward to opening that building and starting new traditions in our community and being able to give our kids the best opportunity to compete academically in a first class facility," Dr. Yohn said.

The new Smiths Station High School is slated to be completed in May of 2011 and open that fall.

The old high school will open as a middle school, serving the surrounding community and taking some of the strain off parents who drive their children an extra 15-20 miles to Wacoochee Junior High School.

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