Families and community members filled the bus lanes and parking lots at the brand-new Hendricks Middle School on Saturday, July 24, to come see the school for the first time during its grand opening.
Forsyth County Schools leaders spoke in front of the crowd of families in the school’s cafeteria, and Board of Education Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey said she had never seen so many come out for the opening of a middle school in the county.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden kicked off the grand opening ceremony, welcoming in families, and thanking facilities staff, who worked hard to make Hendricks Middle School a reality, and Evergreen Construction, who built the facilities.
He also thanked Principal Cheryl Riddle for her work this past year in bringing together the community and making sure Hendricks would be ready for students and families for this school year.
Riddle said she was incredibly honored and humbled to be opening Forsyth County’s 11th middle school.
“I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am that this day is finally here,” Riddle said.
Before the start of the official ribbon cutting and flag raising, Riddle and other school and district leaders took the opportunity to honor the school’s namesake: Donald F. Hendricks.
“Today may be the first day Hendricks Middle School is officially open and ready to serve the community, but it is certainly not the first day the Hendricks name has been heard in conjunction with service to the community,” Morrissey said.
Don Hendricks served as a Board of Education member from 1993 to 2002, and in that time, he made great strides in making FCS into what it is today.
Former FCS superintendent Paula Gault spoke to the crowd about some of his stories and accomplishments that she remembers from her time working alongside him.
She said, after he retired from a career at General Motors in 1987, he and his family packed up all their belongings into an RV and set out on a trip to find the perfect place for them to settle down.
Traveling from the West side of the nation, they ended up parking the RV in Stone Mountain one fall to explore the North Georgia and metro Atlanta areas. That was when Hendricks came across Forsyth County, where Gault said he saw so much potential as a great community for him and his family.
After settling down in the county, Hendricks began volunteering at Midway Elementary School where his children attended, beginning the start of his long-term interest and impact in the school system.
“Don’s passion for school improvement was contagious,” Gault said.
During his time on the board, he promoted community-based strategic plans, pushed for a Partners in Education program and established local school councils at each school in the district. On top of that, he developed the very first technology plan in the district.
Gault said Hendricks always brought forward innovative and novel ideas to the board and school district.
“Congratulations, Hendricks Middle School,” Gault said. “Your students, staff, parents and community can proudly proclaim your namesake was instrumental in laying the groundwork for building Forsyth County Schools as one of the best school districts in our country.”
Hendricks’ family attended the opening, his daughter taking the podium to speak more on the impact her father had in the school system and to reveal a gift to the middle school and its community of families and staff.
The family unveiled a framed portrait of Don Hendricks to keep in the building to remind students of the intelligent, caring and courageous man behind the school’s name.
“We would like to thank the Board of Education and [Board of Education member] Tom Cleveland for recognizing dad’s contributions here in the community and bringing his name forward for consideration,” she said.
Riddle said the school has and always will follow and lead through Don Hendricks’ legacy.
Following the ceremony, district leaders led families outside where members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 raised the flag outside of the school for the first time. During the flag raising, student Quinn Noval performed the national anthem.
District and county leaders both gathered next for the ribbon cutting ceremony in which Riddles cut the ribbon and officially opened Hendricks Middle up to the community for the first time.
Using maps of the school provided by student volunteers, families went on self-guided tours of the school. Some students found their soon-to-be classrooms and lockers while others headed for the gym to run around or hop up onto the auditorium stage.
Riddle said she was excited to see so many students there, already enjoying the school and what it has to offer.
“It’s going to be a great year,” she said. “I cannot wait.”