The heavy lifting has been done to make way for the transition of two former Fayette County high schools to PK-8 schools, and teachers reported to work Wednesday in anticipation of the first day of classes on Aug. 28.

Both Fayetteville PK-8 and Valley PK-8 will be in operation at their respective former high school buildings beginning this school year.

"We're ready," Fayetteville PK-8 principal Melissa Harrah said Tuesday.

The school, located at the former site of Fayetteville High, will feature students from Fayetteville and Gatewood elementaries as well as students who were seventh-graders last year at FHS. The projected enrollment is 640.

Among the work done over the spring and summer to refit the Fayetteville building for the transition was the removal of the Lia Vaglio Auditorium to make way for four new classrooms and a "beautiful" music room, Harrah said.

Other work has included reconfiguration of part of the building's office, as well as efforts in the back hallway to create classrooms and bathrooms for PK and kindergarten classes. Additional projects such as painting have been accomplished.

New risers have been ordered for the music room, as well. A pending phase of construction is proposed that will include a brand new cafeteria, a safe schools entrance and reconfiguration of the office. The new cafeteria is slated to include a stage that can be used for performances, said Harrah.

Mindful particularly of students coming in from smaller Gatewood, Harrah said a concerted planning effort to create a more seamless transition for students and teachers alike has been ongoing for several months.

"We did a lot of planning starting back in October," she said. The goal was to prevent students and teachers "from walking in as strangers."

And, with the Gatewood students, an aim has been to help negate fears of attending school in a more crowded environment.

Harrah is anticipating the coming year. "We want the community of Fayetteville to know they're going to have a school they're going to be proud of," she said.

On the sports scene, Fayetteville PK-8 will have a soccer program for the first time ever, said Harrah, in addition to fielding other sports teams. The co-educational squad will be coached by Brian Good. Practice will occur on the field behind the tennis courts, while games will be played on the football field.

A recent construction project visible to the motoring public in the Smithers area has featured the separation of gas, water and electric lines between the former Valley Elementary School and the former Valley High School, which had a shared parking lot.

Minor construction, including completion of a pre-school room and an activity room, as well as necessary modifications to the boys restroom, were among the projects accomplished earlier this year in Smithers.

Also, Valley PK-8 principal Lee Loy said in late July that all carpeted roomswhich remained at the end of the last school year will have new flooring when the school term starts. Other floors have all been stripped and waxed, too.

In addition to outside crews, Loy said his custodians have worked "so, so hard. There's no slouch on these people."

The projected enrollment for the Valley PK-8 school is 464 students, which currently includes about 35 kindergarten students. A combined staff of 57 will be involved with assuring the operation of the school.

"This was a big undertaking," Loy said this week. "I'm starting to get real excited."

As the summer progressed, teachers came in early to begin work on modifying and preparing their classrooms, he said.

Loy is anxious for the year to get under way and he says he's happy he is still involved with Valley. "This community has given me a home," he said.

An open house and orientation session is set for Valley from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 23.

The Fayetteville open house/orientation session will be a two-day affair, said Harrah. The breakdown is as follows: Aug. 26, 4 to 5 p.m. (kindergarten and first grade); Aug. 26, 5 to 6 p.m. (second, third and fourth grades); Aug. 27, 4 to 5 p.m. (fifth and sixth grades); and Aug. 27, 5 to 6 p.m., (seventh and eighth grades).

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