The Old Fort community gathered in the library of the school Thursday evening to hear a presentation from McDowell Schools’ Superintendent Mark Garrett about the upcoming construction plans.

Old Fort’s school board representative Patrick Ellis, Old Fort principal Jill Ward, school board member Brian Piercy and School Resource Officer Steven Corns were also present to discuss the details and answer any questions from the public.

“When we talked about the design (of the school), we wanted to get it right the first time,” said Garrett. “It is going to be a jewel for this community.”

The new school, paid for with a $15 million Needs Based Grant and $5 million match from the county, will feature a two-story classroom building, STEM lab, two-story media center, music and art room, full size gym and cafeteria, and an auditorium that will seat 614 people with state-of-the-art equipment.

“The auditorium was a huge part of this from day one,” said Garrett. “Our hope is by October or November of 2020, you will see (the school) looking like the picture.”

But among all of the new and fresh amenities, safety of students and staff was the highest priority when creating this project, Garrett expressed.

“There will be no direct line of site from the interstate,” said Garrett. “We don’t want to draw attention to the school from the interstate.”

With the layout of the school, four people ideally can monitor the entire academic wing at vantage points in the hallways, Garrett said. There was also a reduction in doors leading to the outside from 31 to six.

Construction crews are expected to start rolling in this week. The Head Start building will be the first one to be demolished. Next, the gym will come down, then the auditorium. These areas will house the new two-story academic wing and offices. Once that is finished, students will move into that building for the demolition of the rest of the building, which will house the gym, auditorium and cafeteria. In the school design, rock from the gym and the façade of the school mimic that of the original.

Starting Monday, however, students, staff and parents will undergo a new traffic pattern that flows through the front of school. Old Fort staff will have to park off campus and be shuttled to and from the school during construction. Afternoon car riders will also be shuttled off campus to meet their parents.

Everyone who spoke to the crowd Thursday evening, echoed the same sentiments that although it will be hectic for a while, it will be worth it.

“We are excited,” said Ward. “It will be uncomfortable, but I’m excited for our kids. Our instruction and our expectations for academics remain the same. They will be safe and they will be happy.”

Another meeting for the public is set for Monday in the library of Old Fort Elementary at 9:30 a.m.

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