Hickory Flat Community Celebrates Ribbon-Cutting of New Dean Rusk Middle School

Hickory Flat Community Celebrates Ribbon-Cutting of New Dean Rusk Middle School

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Celebrating the ribbon cutting for the new/replacement Dean Rusk MS at a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016 are, from left to right, School Board Member John Harmon, Vice Chair Patsy Jordan, Chair Kyla Cromer and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower.

The Hickory Flat community gathered on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, to celebrate the ribbon cutting for the Cherokee County School District’s newest school: the replacement Dean Rusk Middle School.

The evening included remarks by Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower, School Board Chair Kyla Cromer, Principal Cindy Cooper and eighth-grader Bradley Gordon, a special presentation by the PTSA and performances by the school’s eighth-grade symphonic band and chorus.

“For me tonight, it’s about opportunity and a legacy of excellence,” Dr. Hightower said to the audience, which included students, parents, volunteers, partners and current and retired teachers and administrators.  “This is a world-class facility… and we hope we’ve risen to your expectations.”

The 30-year-old former building required replacement in order to meet the needs of the growing community.  Construction of the $36.8 million school was funded by the Education SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax), which is on the ballot this fall for continuation by voters.

The new school accommodates the current 1,480 students with room for growth, with numerous classrooms, wide hallways, a spacious gymnasium and cafetorium and additional technology, all designed to serve the new Grades 6-8 configuration.  Dean Rusk MS is the last middle school in CCSD to add Grade 6, a transition that gives sixth-graders greater opportunity to access advanced core classes and arts and career electives.

The school is named for the late U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was born in Cherokee County and served from 1961-69 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

“Dean Rusk Middle School has a strong history of outstanding leadership, and I’m honored to follow in the footsteps of our past Principals,” Principal Cooper said.  “Our entire community is deeply appreciative for this new school and the opportunity to celebrate it tonight.”

Constructed by Womack, Lewis & Smith, Inc. using a CCSD prototypical middle-school design modified by KRH Architects, the 255,037-square-foot, two-story school is on 25.6 acres on East Cherokee Drive adjacent to the campuses of Hickory Flat ES and Sequoyah HS.

Its classrooms all feature touchscreen, flat-panel smart boards – the first school in CCSD with this feature.  Other technological innovations include the Global Learning Theatre video-conferencing classroom and Technology Lab classroom, with a 3D printer, green-screen video room and Lego robotics table among its special features.

In addition to CCSD’s safety standards, such as an electronic front-door “buzz-in” security system, the new design requires all visitor traffic to flow into the front office for an additional “security foyer” level of check-in and verification before entering the main hallway.  A polished concrete floor will save on maintenance and cleaning costs, paying for itself in a year’s time; and new features to become standard in CCSD facilities include tankless water heaters, electric hand dryers and T-5 light fixtures, all greatly reducing energy costs.

School Board Chair Kyla Cromer remarked that every student she met at the event told her how much they enjoy the new school, and her comments were echoed by eighth-grader Bradley Gordon.

“Students today are part of a new generation,” he said, noting that the technology now available to them improves how they learn.  That said, he added, the most important element of the school didn’t change.  “With all the changes, the school maintained what was best about it… the great staff.”

Following the tradition started with previous new/replacement middle schools, the new Dean Rusk MS campus features the colors of its Innovation Zone high school… which for the Sequoyah Zone are black and gold.  As part of the transition, Dean Rusk MS adopted the Chiefs as its mascot in keeping with Sequoyah HS.

PTSA President Monica Orrico presented the school with a dedication gift: two stained glass windows designed by JD’s Glassworks with the school’s new logo and colors.

“We’re beginning new traditions… as Chiefs!” she said.

The former Dean Rusk MS is being renovated to provide additional capacity to Sequoyah HS beginning in January… much like how the former Chapman Intermediate School now is used as “Etowah East” by Etowah HS.  The District and school are collaboratively developing a plan for which programs will be housed in this facility.