APS and other distinguished officials cut the ribbon Thursday on the Morris Brandon Elementary‘s Primary Center that opened at the start of the year and serves the growing Buckhead school’s 200-plus kindergarteners and first-graders. The ceremony capped off an unprecedented year of school openings and renovations that totaled about $265 million — thanks to a great degree to the special-purpose local-option sales tax (or SPLOST).
“Thanks to taxpayers’ support, in the span of two months Atlanta Public Schools has celebrated the opening or renovation of five buildings,” said APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall, who later quoted the author Thomas Kempis when she said, “‘The loftier the building, the deeper the foundation that must be laid’ … This is further evidence of the fact that parents are choosing Brandon as their first school of choice. And we could not have done it without you, the taxpayer, for helping fund this building. I hope you know your feedback was heard loudly and clearly.”
Dr. Hall was joined by Atlanta Board of Education members Nancy M. Meister (District 4, which includes Brandon), Emmett Johnson and Reuben McDaniel; APS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Kathy Augustine; SRT-4 Executive Director Tamara Cotman; Lisa Borders, representing Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Brandon Principal Karen Evans; and Brandon PTA co-president Laurie Campbell.
“This is such a great, bright, open and inviting space,” said Campbell, whose daughter Collette attends the fourth grade on the main Brandon campus. She also noted how the new building hopes to seen be LEED-certified as an environmentally friendly facility. “We’ve had an expansion written into this building from the get-go, and we know it’s going to be a hard row to hoe to get to expand this building, in about two years. So to get to this point, it shows how APS is very committed. This place has full technological capabilities, every classroom has a Promethean whiteboard. You can tell that APS wants to succeed in every area, and that includes the facilities.”
According to APS construction Project Manager Al Scenna, the $11.5 million renovation of the old Margaret Mitchell Elementary — an historical treasure to the neighborhood — had to be almost completely overhauled, but was done so with both parent and neighborhood feedback. The facility includes completely redone wings on either side, a new media center, cafeteria and auditorium as well as 10 classrooms to bring the total number up to 10. “What separates this renovation from the others we’ve done is the involvement of the PTA, and the neighborhood and community members,” Scenna said. “They literally take this school to their heart, and Principal Evans and I sat down with everyone to get their input. It was their school. They told us they wanted to keep it as close to the original look as possible.”
Principal Evans couldn’t be happier with the final product: “This marks a special new chapter in the distinguished history of Morris Brandon!”
Brandon first-graders Evie Earnest and Andrew Abernathy welcomed the guests, the Kindergarten Hand Bell Choir performed “Love Somebody,” and the First Grade Choir (under the direction of Gail Oden) performed “Never Stop Learning.” Brandon parent Joe Cross and Program Administrator Peter Settelmayer also offered remarks on the occasion.