Nestled within a neighborhood off of Windy Hill Road, northwest of Smyrna, LaBelle Elementary school is on a list of 11 schools the Board of Education is considering to be rebuilt with funds from SPLOST IV. If chosen, LaBelle is slated to be relocated and consolidated with Belmont Hills Elementary.
Old school, lots of updates
LaBelle Elementary, built in 1955 on about 10 acres of land, has been through six different additions and renovations, the most recent in 2006, Stanton said.
The school is unique in that it is contained within one building. Except walking through the enclosed walkway to the gym, children do not have to walk outside to trailers or separate wings of the school, as they do at Brumby and Mountain View, two other schools up for a rebuild.
There are 550 students at LaBelle, Stanton said, and the school isn’t overflowing with extra students, although the district’s website says the capacity of the school is 447 students. Sure, she admitted, there was a lack of spacious office space for teachers, but there were enough classrooms to hold its enrollment.
In 2006, with money from SPLOST II, the district added on a wing of offices, small group classrooms and a conference room to the school. The fairly recent addition is still in great shape, she said, and does not require any new work.
Within the last 5 years, with funds from SPLOST III, LaBelle has received two new playgrounds, which are in great shape as well, Stanton said.
“We’re diligent about maintaining the building that we have,” she added.
The school has had issues in the past with water leaking into the school, and Stanton pointed out a trail of dirt that had seeped under the walls and into the carpeting of the gym floor, which was spotted with water stains.
The carpeting in the music room had been in place since 1996, and Stanton said water issues, compiled with the old rug, gave the room a musty smell.
Removing the carpets and transitioning classrooms to tiled floors would fix the problem, Stanton said; a rebuild was not necessary.
Demographics and tight-knit community
Stanton said she just celebrated her one-year-anniversary as principal of LaBelle Elementary School, which she said she has fallen in love with.
The school is a Title I school, with 95 percent of the student body receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
One thing Stanton loves about the school is its close-knit community and feel of a neighborhood school. The teachers at LaBelle truly care about their students, and Stanton said they focus more on maintaining their building and getting students to school each day than on what perks a rebuild could provide.
Lynn Hadden, a third-grade teacher who was grading papers after school on a recent Friday afternoon, said she loved her school.
Hadden said she was more concerned with maintaining jobs for the teachers at LaBelle than she was with a new school building.
“I would love to work in a lovelier school, but I care about the teachers and students here, and they enjoy coming to the neighborhood community school,” Hadden said.
Wait to hear
While there are a few kinks with the school, Stanton said the staff and administration makes do with what it has. The bookshelves in the library are too tall for some children to reach, some hallways have peeling paint on the walls, she said, and some of the classrooms are eight-sided and make movement and storage difficult for teachers and students.
Stanton said the administration makes do, and will continue to do so, regardless of what the board does Wednesday. The board is expected to discuss two replacement schools at that meeting.