A decade passes and a dream becomes a reality. Marco Island Charter Middle School will open doors to a new building and a new era Monday. Roger Raymond, athletic director at the school, says no one ever thought it would take so long, but it was worth the wait.
- VIDEO: Take a tour of Marco Island Charter Middle School (8 min.)
- AUDIO: MICMS principal George Abounader on a successful school
- AUDIO: MICMS principal George Abounader on entering a new school
- AUDIO: MICMS principal George Abounader on security
- AUDIO: MICMS principal George Abounader on Monday's orientation
“I’ve been around since it was just sand and trees here. We didn’t know the planning of the new building would take 10 years, but it was worth it because it’s such a nice facility. No corners were cut. Our local school board along with the principal made sure everything was added that really suited our school.”
The new facility features all kinds of bells and whistles, including a multi-purpose gymnasium with bleachers and a stage. Principal George Abounader says a tremendous amount of preliminary work went into the planning of the school. He says many years back, he established relationships with school officials to develop a trust bond. Then after a few years, the idea of a facility was brought up.
“The vote was taken around five years ago to build the school. Then, we had a protected bald eagle on the proposed site. The nesting bald eagle caused a one year delay and about $10,000 to study it,” Abounader remembers.
“Finally, we had to go back and get a new site approved. We did site planning and created educational guidelines so the architects could design the new facility to function well.”
Abounader says the total building time was around 15 months.
“When school let out in May, the building wasn’t ready to receive us yet, but if we delayed our entry, we wouldn’t be ready to open on Aug. 20. We had to go in before it was ready and pile things in rooms for storage. It looked like a warehouse!” Abounader reflects with amazement.
This week, the staff at Charter Middle School has been very busy tying up lose ends to get ready for “opening day.” With faculty log-ins still being established and sod still being laid out front, Abounader stands firm. Things will be completed and ready by the morning of Aug. 20. Only three days left to prepare, but according to teachers, the readiness of the new building plays a small part in the whole process.
“I think the faculty dealt with a lot of inadequacies as far as facilities in the past, but the teachers were so dedicated and so good from the beginning that we ended up with an A-plus school regardless,” says Raymond.
“I think the new building will make it better, but let’s face it: The people are what makes or breaks a school. A good teacher should be able to get their point across in a tent.”
Raymond admits that Collier County did a great job getting Marco Island Charter Middle School’s technology up to speed with other schools. He believes many students will be pleasantly surprised. Yanise Sanderson, soon-to-be a seventh grader, says she’s very excited about the new building.
“It’s new and BIG!” says Sanderson.
“We were in portables last year. It wasn’t good because we didn’t have enough room,” she confides.
New sixth grader, Savannah Spina says she may be excited about the new building, but there is one thing she’s not looking forward to.
“I don’t want a lot of homework,” Spina laughs.
“I don’t like homework.”
Spina admits feeling a bit nervous for the first day but she knows some seventh and eight graders who will “help her if she gets lost.”
Ann Campisi, parent of a sixth grade student says her daughter feels a bit nervous “changing classes,” and possibly getting lost in the process.
“I told her,” Campisi says, “everyone’s going to be in the same boat you are, it’s a brand new school. No one else will know where to go either.” Campisi reflects sheepishly her days of getting “lost in school.” Rumor had it, in those days anyway, asking for directions only made it worse.
“I remember in junior high if you would ask an older kid for help when you got lost, they would give you the wrong directions on purpose!” she laughs.
Jerra Holdsworth, Charter Middle School intensive reading teacher, says the new students have nothing to worry about.
“All of the sixth grade classes are downstairs, along with their lockers. They may have one class upstairs, but that’s it,” Holdsworth says.
“The school understands that it’s a middle school and these kids are coming from an elementary level. Sixth grade teachers are very aware of sixth grade anxieties. And so, the school is set up to make sure sixth graders are comfortable, so they can get to class on time.”
Abounader says the school has a “logical flow,” and even though it looks big, kids will learn it very quickly. He says within one day, students will learn the entire campus without any problems at all. And visitors will learn about the “single point of access” rule.
“I asked for security measures that were ‘transparent,’ so the kids wouldn’t feel like they’re in a prison. If you stand in one hallway, you can see clearly all the way down to the end, so when teachers stand in the hallway during class changes, they can see what’s going on. We also have cameras throughout the school. And, we’re shooting for a ‘single point of access’ where everyone has to go through the same set of doors,” Abounader explains.
“When a visitor walks through the doors into the front lobby, they can’t get to the students without first signing in, and then going through a second set of doors.”
On the contrary, Abounader points out that a successful school really has nothing to do with it’s walls. A successful school is made up of a “top notch faculty, a rigorous and relevant curriculum, a student body that’s ready to learn and a community that’s supports it.” Nowhere in that statement does George Abounader reference a beautiful new building.
“A building is simply a schoolhouse that houses a school,” Abounader proclaims.
“Do I think the new building’s going to make us more successful?
I think it will provide for a more adequate, safe and secure environment for students and staff,” he assures.
For information on the new Marco Island Charter Middle School, or to review this year’s uniform dress code, visit: www.micms.org.