GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) - Kids throughout the Big Bend area started a new school year Monday, but for some high school students in Gadsden County, it also meant a new building and new faces.
The new consolidated Gadsden County High School joins students from the former East and West Gadsden High Schools. The change comes after the school board voted in April to reconfigure the district. The goal is to save money and be more efficient with space.
"We're just one school now, so we'll have one valedictorian, one salutatorian," said Juliette Fisher-Jackson, Gadsden Co. High School Principal. "Academically, the kids have some teachers here that they have had at their previous school. They are going to see a group of younger teachers that are here with us."
Fisher-Jackson says so far, the transition has been smooth. She says of the 1,064 students who attended the first day of school, about 25 had scheduling issues.
As far as the atmosphere, she says all the kids seems to be taking the changes in stride.
"Our students have come here ready to learn," said Fisher-Jackson. "Our parents have sent their kids to us ready to learn and we owe that to the parents, because I think there's been a lot of conversation that the parents have had with their children about making things work and doing the right thing and succeeding."
All these changes come despite some passionate opposition to consolidation. Some were upset that they'd have to travel farther, others, not happy that the new school is keeping East Gadsden's old mascot and colors.
But, if the new sign is any indication, the district is working to make all the students feel like this is their school, no matter where they went before. Students say they noticed a difference right when they walked into school.
"Well, there's a lot more kids. An abundant amount of kids," said Jada Hamisiao, a Gadsden Co. junior. "I think the curriculum's going to be different this year, too."
"Definitely more people, bigger environment. There's just a lot of activity," said Dequavious Charleston, a Gadsden Co. sophomore.
Even the students who made the switch from West Gadsden High School say so far, they're happy at their new school.
"I was worried at first about this merger but everything is organized, lovely, the people are nice. Plus, I get to meet new people," said Brittany Mackey, a Gadsden Co. sophomore.
The consolidation also affects almost every other school in Gadsden County, as well.