Matt Daugherty’s art classroom is very different from the one he was teaching in just a week ago.
During the first day inside the new Holt High School near 44th Court Northeast on Tuesday, students in one of Daugherty’s classes sat at tables as music and a slideshow of art pieces played on the classroom SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard.
In Daugherty’s room at the former Holt High, it would have taken seven different devices to do what one SMART Board does in the new building. In his old classroom, the sink did not work, and the room was cluttered with the knick-knacks that belonged to past art teachers.
In Daugherty’s new classroom, the space is clean and the kids are happy.
"It is the most exciting thing I have done in a year since I was hired here," Daugherty said of the move.
Daugherty and his classes were part of the first wave of the more 400 students and teachers to walk into the new $18-million, 114,000-square-foot building that took nearly two years to build and many more years to get to that stage.
Before the Tuscaloosa County School System put building a new Holt High School on its five-year capital projects list in 2014, the Holt community had requested for years that a new school be built. Originally built in 1941, the former Holt High was the oldest school building in the county and had its share of wear and tear over the years.
An example of the former building’s shortcomings was a heater malfunction last January that caused many of the students to leave school early.
Teachers began making the move from the old building on Alabama Avenue to the new Holt High last Friday. Holt Principal Jacqueline McNealey said the effort to move everyone was a "good kind of stress" done with a plan.
"Basically, we had a good solid plan, which is how we were able to move so quickly and efficiently," McNealey said.
McNealey said the best part of her day was getting to see the looks on students’ faces as they entered the building for the first time.
"All those first moments is what captured me," she said.
For Kendell Grant, a junior and the drum major with the Holt High marching band, what excited him the most was the new band room and how big it was.
"I felt like this was going to be a great atmosphere, considering we’re not at the old school anymore and it would set the mood here," Grant said.
Sinkeycia Jackson, a senior, said she like how the building was only one floor, as well as the purple-tinted windows outside the doors that symbolize the school’s colors.
"We have a new experience now, and everyone is so happy and proud just to have a new school," Jackson said. "I don’t really want to graduate because we just got here."
In addition to teaching, Daugherty spent a large portion of the day talking to his students about how much they deserved this new school and how the building and classroom were every much theirs as it was his.
"I think it’s about helping them have pride in themselves and their surroundings, and if they feel like this building is theirs, then they will take care of it," he said.
Grant said that in years past, he felt that other schools looked down on Holt because of what they did not have, but that with a new school, there was an opportunity for the student body to be invigorated and do new things that others do not think they are capable of.
"It sets the mood of people who live in this community that we have a new school, they have their wish and that we’ll keep this in good shape," Grant said.
Reach Drew Taylor at email@example.com or 205-722-0204.