Henry County Board of Education updates

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

Henry County Middle School has served students on its McDonough campus for more than six decades. Its days are now numbered.

Students in that district will attend the new McDonough Middle School when it opens, which will likely be in the fall of 2019, according to school system officials. The Henry County Board of Education voted Monday night to phase out Henry County Middle School, since it has been determined that it would cost more to upgrade the existing campus than to build a new one.

That campus will be repurposed for professional learning and office space, according to the resolution passed at the Feb. 13 BOE meeting.

A new middle school and high school in McDonough were identified as capital projects to be funded by the new school SPLOST. In addition to that money, school system spokesman J.D. Hardin said, the announcement that the HCMS campus will no longer be used by students means there is a definite need in the district that qualifies for $8-9 million in state funding.

While there have been certain additions and upgrades over the years, the initial buildings on the HCMS campus were constructed in 1954.

The new high school planned for McDonough will replace the current Henry County High School campus, which will be absorbed by the growing Academy for Advanced Studies that serves students from every high school zone in the district. Impact Academy, the district’s online component, has moved into the old McDonough Elementary School building that also houses EXCEL Academy.

Perhaps the most creative repurposing of a former school campus in Henry County has taken place at the old Stockbridge High School, which was the home of Patrick Henry Academy (now EXCEL) until two years ago. That facility, nearly 50 years old, was being shuttered and one building was set to be boarded up when Hollywood came calling.

Producers of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” worked out a deal with the school system to use the campus last year, where it doubled for a middle school and high school in Indiana. The school system received about $74,000 under that agreement, Hardin said, and now the show is a bona fide hit. The cast and crew are back this year and paying just over $80,000 for use of the facility.

But the school system can still use it for professional learning and as a northern transportation hub, Hardin. In addition, the producers of “Stranger Things” are typically on site only a few days a month and they have agreed to allow use of the buildings for other filming as long as it doesn’t pose a conflict. Hardin said he has toured the facility with a couple of potential productions but nothing else has materialized there yet.