New Hope Elementary Principal Laura Webb presented her latest plans for the county’s 23rd elementary school to the Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 12.
She began her presentation by thanking each board member and Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden for the opportunity to open a new school following her principalship at Big Creek Elementary School.
“I am honored and thrilled to have this experience,” Webb said. “It has been an incredible journey so far, and I can’t wait for the coming months until we open in August of 2022.”
History behind the name
While putting together ideas and building up New Hope Elementary over the past several months, Webb said she has always kept in mind the history behind the school’s name along with what she wants students and families to take away from their experience at the school.
Webb said historical research shows there were approximately 16 African American schools in Forsyth County in the early 1900s, and one of the largest at the time was New Hope.
“Not only does New Hope have a historical importance for our community, but New Hope also represents positive growth and vision moving forward,” Webb said. “I, personally, cannot think of a better name for this new elementary school for Forsyth County.”
New Hope Nighthawks
Webb said the school’s selected mascot, the Nighthawks, fits right in with the name and feel of the new elementary school. The small bird is known for being adaptable, resilient and determined.
Over the years, the population of nighthawks has also dwindled, leading conservationists to work to preserve their habitats and environments.
“This mirrors the effort that is being made to honor and preserve the history of our African American community here in Forsyth County,” Webb said.
Webb explained that the nighthawk also represents her hope that the students and families of New Hope all band together to create a strong community.
Aside from coming up with the school’s mascot, Webb has also been focused on the New Hope’s structure and design.
The building is designed to be nearly 150,000 sq. ft., and it sits on more than 40 acres of land on the west side of Castleberry Road. It has a capacity for more than 1,170 students, and when it opens in August, Webb said they plan to begin with approximately 900 students in grades K-5.
The number of students, however, depends on final 2022 elementary attendance lines, which will be determined in November.
A new elementary design
Webb said New Hope is completely unique from the other elementary schools in the county. With a completely new design by Smallwood Architectural Firm, New Hope is a two-story building featuring several collaborative spaces outside of the regular classrooms and shared common spaces.
Based on the design and completed construction so far, the main door at the front of the school leads into a one-story area where many of the school’s common spaces will be — an office, the clinic, cafeteria, gym, art room and music room. In the front area, there is also a wing for students in the Specially Designed Instruction Program.
Once visitors move past these common areas, they would reach the media center, “which acts kind of as a barrier between the common areas and the classroom wing,” Webb said.
Entering the media center, visitors can expect to drop down into a two-story building that surrounds a courtyard where students will be able to play and learn outside. The media center itself is also two stories, and it features long windows that look out onto the courtyard.
Past the media center, students will be able to find their classrooms, which will be decorated with shades of either blue or green — the school’s colors.
Webb said New Hope is the first school Bowen and Watson Construction has built in the county, and she is already excited by how much they have accomplished in bringing Smallwood’s design and her ideas to life.
“I can only speak to my experience, but they have been incredible to work with to date,” Webb said. “They reach out and schedule monthly tours where I get to go, boots and hard hat and all, and we get to tour the building and tour the property where I really get to be involved in the day-by-day, step-by-step build of this school.”
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Building a community
Outside of touring the construction site, Webb wants to work to ensure families and students will feel welcomed to New Hope when they finally walk through the doors for the first time next year.
After redistricting lines are established and families know if they will be attending New Hope in the fall, Webb said she plans to hold parent meetings, meet and greet sessions, spirit nights and other events. These will give families the chance to meet each other and get to know the school’s staff.
Coming from Big Creek Elementary, Webb said she understands just how important community and parent involvement is for an elementary school. Opening the school for the first time, she said she wants parents, students and families to immediately feel at home.
In the past several months, she has already started making connections in the community to bring to New Hope. Webb said she has worked with principals in the Denmark, Central and West communities, speaking with not only elementary leaders, but also with those at the middle and high schools that New Hope students may eventually attend.
She has also begun reaching out to local organizations and businesses to create new Partners in Education for the upcoming elementary school, making immediate connections with Browns Bridge Church and Northside Forsyth Hospital.
After attendance lines are established in November, Webb said she plans to reach out to feeder elementary schools to meet with local school board members and potentially begin the new school’s PTO.
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Student programming and activities
With later plans to build up the school community, Webb presented to the board student programming and a vision for the school that has already been planned and established.
While working through these plans, Webb said she was focused mainly on academics, safety and supporting the whole child. This means creating academic supports and programs that will allow students to “reach their full potential academically, socially, physically and emotionally.”
To support this vision, Webb worked to find a balanced educational approach to help support students and help them to identify their strengths and passions. Here is a list of just some of the programming that will be available to New Hope’s students:
● STEM Program;
● Personalized Learning;
● PBIS/Positivity Project;
● Art and Music;
● Physical Education;
● Interactive Gym;
● and After School Program.
Webb said the building was designed with both a STEM and robotics lab, meaning the school will open with those programs for students.
“We hope to utilize these labs for our specials, we hope to utilize them for our afterschool clubs and activities, and we also want to integrate these labs into the daily teaching of our students with their teachers,” Webb said.
There will also be a variety of extracurricular activities available to students, including:
● Battle of the Books;
● News Crew;
● Beast Academy;
● Science Olympiad;
● Math Olympiad;
● School Ambassadors;
● Safety Patrol;
● and Peer Helpers.
The principal, however, plans to add more activities as she learns more about students’ needs and interests.
Overall, Webb said she is excited for New Hope’s opening and for the opportunity to meet families.
“I cannot wait to meet our Nighthawks,” Webb said. “There is no doubt that New Hope Elementary will bring new opportunities and hope to every student, staff member, family member and community member that walks through its doors.”