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Country celebrates new, progressive primary school

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Mt. Zion Primary School, the latest addition to the Clayton County School System, was officially dedicated by county education officials over the weekend. The new, uniquely-designed school will serve the growing needs of the Jonesboro area by focusing on the development of kindergarten-through second-grade students.

The grand ceremony started with three top students from each grade level being chauffeured to the entrance of the school in a stretch limo. Afterward, John Thompson, superintendent of Clayton County Schools, as well members of the Clayton County Board of Education, cut a ribbon, signifying the school's official opening.

There were performances by the Metropolitan Atlanta Community Band, the Rex Mill Middle School Chorus, Atlanta Dance Core, and several Mt. Zion Primary students, and guest speeches by Jeffrey Robinson, the school's architect, as well as Jeff Turner, Clayton County police chief.

"We wanted it to be a special occasion," said Rochelle Smith, assistant principal at Mt. Zion Primary School. "I've attended some ribbon cuttings and I've never seen anything like it. It was really well-planned."

After the ceremony, guided tours of the school were offered to the public. A nearly two-year, $14 million project, the new school features unique amenities not found anywhere else in the school district. Among them are: Colored floor tiles and furniture which match the colors of the uniforms specific to each grade level; a 250-gallon aquarium; an outdoor amphitheater; large amounts of natural lighting; classrooms each equipped with Interwrite Boards; math and science laboratories for each grade level; and a "reading pit," where students can listen to guest readers.

"Each of the hallways have their own color code and that's how we came up with the uniforms that they would wear," said Smith. "I really think that its unique. Each of the students can feel special and they have something to identify with as far as their grade level is concerned. We're able to have a math and science lab on each of the grade levels, so it is really giving our students a chance to focus on those subjects."

Mt. Zion Primary School, which officially opened its doors to students on Aug. 7, prepares K-2 students to enter Mt. Zion Elementary School as third graders. The arrangement allows the schools to communicate, yet concentrate on age-appropriate learning activities, according to Jacqueline Evans, a spokesperson for Clayton County Public Schools.

"Mt. Zion Elementary had more students than they could handle, so letting them [the primary school] handle the K-2 allows them to expand their services," said Evans. She said the design of the primary school is more "kid friendly" and has amenities which allow for more community activities.

"There are a lot of things at this school that can really bring the parents, and not just educate the students, but really make the school a part of the community," said Evans. "It's colorful and there are lots of light, so the kids really want to be at this school."