While the first day of the new school year on Thursday, Aug. 3, will be special day for the 38,000 students who attend Savannah-Chatham County public schools, it will be an extra-special day for those students who attend Low and Haven elementary schools.
These fortunate students will mark the new school year in brand new schools, which are powerful investments in our community’s future.
Last Wednesday, officials cut the ribbon to open the new $30.2 million Juliette Gordon Low Elementary School, located on Blue Ridge Avenue in the neighborhood behind Jenkins High School on DeRenne Avenue.
That ceremony came a day before officials officially opened the new $21.2 million Haven Elementary School at 5111 Dillon St.
Both schools were built thanks to voter-approved ESPLOST revenue. They are visible proof that the power of the penny works, as the additional 1 percent per dollar that consumers paid at local checkout counters helped pay for two good-looking and modern school buildings that were built and opened in time for the upcoming school year.
School officials and contractors should be credited for finishing these two projects, which isn’t easy when there are factors such as the weather and change orders to consider.
While it’s true that new buildings alone don’t ensure a quality education, modern and well-appointed schools do make a difference in creating better atmospheres that contribute to education. It’s tougher for teachers to teach and for students to learn in cramped, poorly lit classrooms. Just walking into a new school building, which has its own unique new smell, is an uplifting experience that should inspire teachers and students and give them extra confidence.
Moreover, the $51.4 million spent on these two new elementary schools represent significant public investments in the future of this community. Taxpayers will get their money’s worth in the form of a better educated community, as students at Low and Haven successfully complete their school work and go on to excel in middle school and graduate from high school. But the foundation for future success and a more prosperous community is laid in elementary schools like Low and Haven. These schools are critical to the continued success of the school district and its students. Both schools also are mainstays in their respective neighborhoods, creating better bonding and more pride.
Indeed, the pressure is on at Haven, located in Tatemville, a high-poverty and high-crime neighborhood. Haven has been under the gun of Gov. Nathan Deal, who put the school on his list of failing schools, which means it’s subject to a state takeover that could potentially cost some employees their jobs.
Fortunately, district administrators and school staff have not taken this dire situation lightly. Former Superintendent Thomas Lockamy and current Superintendent Ann Levett dug in and pushed for changes at Haven to improve student performance and get the school off the governor’s hit list. New Principal Dionne Young is at the center of this improvement effort, and she believes the new school, which replaced an aging 54-year-old campus, will make a huge difference.
“I promise you I will not allow you to be robbed of the skills you need to reach your full potential,” Ms. Young told a group of Haven students who attended Thursday’ ribbon-cutting ceremony.
She should be congratulated for her inspirational words. Her promise, combined with the impressive new digs, should make for a powerfully good start of the school year at Haven. Voters who supported ESPLOST and the Power of the Penny effort to replace antiquated buildings like the old Haven and Low schools should congratulate themselves as well. It’s gratifying to see elected officials keep their promises in spending this sales tax revenue. Investing in the future of this community is a powerfully good idea.