When students report to the new Orange Beach Middle and High School on Aug. 14, they walked into brand-new buildings to start the year. But it’s not the gleaming school that will greet them in a year’s time.
“If you have been up and down Canal Road the past six or seven months you have seen a construction crew that is rocking and rolling,” Orange High School Principal Dr. Erika McCoy said. “They are building a beautiful campus that will be ready for us at the end of the first semester of the coming school year, so opening for [the] 2020 – 2021 [academic year] is what we’re looking at.”
That $26 million campus will include more than 130,000 square feet of instructional floor space in 28 classrooms. Alongside the new school will be an $8.6 million performing arts center with the city of Orange Beach contributing $7.2 million toward it. Both the school and center are under construction.
But classes for the first year are being conducted in two portable villages, one at the site of Orange Beach Elementary School and one across the street on the city’s recreational campus.
“A building doesn’t make a great school, to be honest with you,” McCoy said. “It’s the people that make a great school. The whole purpose of our school is to create great citizens.”
It doesn’t hurt, however, that the two buildings housing the two schools are vastly different from how portables usually look and operate on school campuses.
“These are modular buildings,” McCoy said. “It’s not your traditional portable classrooms, the trailers like many of us went to school in. These are actually positioned all together so it’s one long hallway. It’s really like a brick-and-mortar school, to be honest. They are very well insulated, they’re beautiful, they are clean and I just can’t wait to hear the voices and steps of kids in those buildings.”
Both schools will also spread out to facilities throughout the city’s recreational campus to take advantage of space there.
“Here’s what I call the Mako invasion,” Orange Beach Middle School Principal Dr. Robbie Smith said. “We have invaded off of Canal Road. Between the elementary, middle and high we’re going to have about 800 students in this area.”
Smith said classes will be conducted in the tennis center, the aquatic center, Camp Sunshine’s day camp house as well as the community and recreation centers.
“I think this is a great demonstration of the partnership we have together,” Smith said. “This is just a great example of what Baldwin County Schools and Orange Beach have done together. Baldwin County provided the great Mako Villages that we have that are really top quality. The city of Orange Beach has allowed us to invade their space.”
Additionally, the middle school will have room for eight classrooms and the high school will have 10.
A full slate of sports is also planned for the schools including football, cross country, volleyball, cheerleading and swimming in the fall. Basketball and wrestling will be winter sports and the school is planning to field teams in baseball, soccer, softball, golf, tennis and track and field this spring.
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