By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Thanks to a $20 million campus renovation project, Cullman High principal Elton Bouldin was getting back to his shop-teacher roots on the first day of school Monday.
“I used to teach right over there,” he said, walking past a converted space that is now serving as the front desk.
With several buildings already demolished — including the original principal’s office — officials moved administration into the old ag shop building for the 2013 session. New dividing walls carved out everything from spacious cubicles to a temporary library.
As for Bouldin’s new office? One-third of a corner classroom that was walled-in to give him a big window and just enough room to work.
“I actually like it quite a bit, because I have a perfect view into the center of campus, and just about everyone has to walk that corridor,” he said. “It’s really gone smoothly. The office and guidance was split up into two buildings before, but now we’re under one roof and that’s actually how it’ll be in the new school. So, that’s great.”
The first phase of demolition leveled the administration building, guidance building, media center and J Building. In their place a new two-story, 68,000-square-foot academic building is being built. The academic building will include two floors of classrooms, a media center, cafe, commons, administration space and a multipurpose facility. The bottom level classrooms will be reinforced to meet storm shelter standards, meaning they can be used as shelter in the event of a tornado or powerful storm.
The J Building will be replaced with a two-story, 22,000-square-foot fine arts building. A new auditorium lobby is also being built and the main auditorium renovation is being renovated, as well.
To make up for the lost space, the school leased a massive, portable workspace that includes several large classrooms that will be used during the construction process.
Driver’s education teacher Brent Patterson made the move from the former J Building to the portable and said its been a relatively smooth transition, except for the fact that he lost his favorite teaching stool along the way.
“That’s really been it, because once the students got there I went to sit in my stool and realized it wasn’t there,” he said with a laugh. “But, it really hasn’t been bad at all, overall.”
While eating her lunch outside, to the roar of a bulldozer just a few yards away on the other side of a chain-link fence, senior Mikela Barker said the first day went a lot easier than she had expected.
“I really thought it’d be total chaos, but its not,” she said.
Though students have to be routed around construction zones, Bouldin said the process has also created the benefit of a “smaller” campus, which has cut down on changeover time between periods.
“We basically took 880 students and scattered them across just four buildings,” he said. “There’s no maze anymore. You just start walking, and before long you’ll run into your classroom. It may be a little noisy, but if we’re able to get finished within a year, it’s well worth it.”
County schools open smoothly
Classes also began for the Cullman County Board of Education, with several new principals taking charge. New Cold Springs principal Tim Burleson, who had previously served as an assistant principal, said the first day went well.
Burleson noted it was an interesting transition officially taking over the top spot at the school on Monday.
“This is a little bit broader, whereas as assistant principal you were focused more on discipline,” he said. “This is a much more broad type of job, with different roles.”
Superintendent Billy Coleman visited several schools on Monday, and said the children seemed excited to be back on campus.
“Everything looked like it was going very smoothly and there was a great spirit at every school I stopped by,” Coleman said. “It was a great day. Preliminary indicators also show enrollment is looking up, so we’re really excited about that, as well.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.