People at Liberty Middle are excited about their brand-new school. But Rocky Run Middle School Principal Danny Meier is ecstatic about it because Liberty's opening gave his school a new lease on life.
"We feel like we're opening a new school, in many ways," he said. "I don't know if any school has changed as dramatically this year as we have. We went from being larger than three high schools in the county to being smaller than some of our neighboring elementaries."
With a building capacity of 975 students, last year Rocky Run had to cram some 1,426 student bodies into the school — and it wasn't easy. But now that the boundaries have been redrawn and Liberty Middle is alleviating its overcrowding, Rocky Run has less than 800 students and finally has some breathing room.
"The downside was that we had to say goodbye to 35 teachers," said Meier. "They were part of our family. But they all found new homes within the school system." On the bright side, he said, the school also got to bid farewell to its 21 trailers.
"It's always been a wonderful school, but it'll be more manageable with smaller numbers," he said. "We have a new marquee outside, and we painted murals on the walls inside the school. We also painted the lockers for a fresh, new look."
A mural in the gym features the school's mascot, the ram. And a new school seal adorns the floor at the building's entrance. Meier said Rocky Run has always had a rich tradition, but students and staff now feel "like we have a fresh outlook and a fresh start — it's a spirit of renewal."
There's also a patriotic theme, with a huge American flag in the locker area. Said Meier: "With all the newly painted lockers, it looks gorgeous." There are other changes, as well.
With less students, Rocky Run reduced its teaching teams from 11 to six — three each for seventh and eighth grades. Each team will also be renamed. Fewer buses will service the school, and students will be able to eat lunch in just three shifts, instead of six. Previously, lunch ran from 10:15 a.m.-1 p.m.; now, it will only go from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Teachers will have their own rooms, instead of having to share. And lockers will be spread out to alleviate congestion. In the past, because the school was so crowded, students could only go to their lockers at certain times of the day. But now they'll be able to go to visit them as needed. And for years, Rocky Run students haven't been allowed to wear backpacks because they took up too much room in the hallways. Now, that rule may be waived.
Furthermore, the school established three new computer labs in the heart of the classroom area since it regained space formerly used for classes. And with less students, the computer/student ratio has increased significantly.
"So Liberty's opening benefited both schools and both communities," he said. "In many ways, this is a new school to us." And Rocky Run has other reasons to be proud. It's one of the few middle schools offering geometry. And, said Meier, "Forty-one of last year's eighth-graders were accepted to Jefferson — the highest number of any middle school in the county."