Jones-Wheat Elementary breaks ground on new school

Published 1:27 pm Friday, September 6, 2013


After a couple of months of demolition work, ground was officially broken on the new Jones-Wheat Elementary School Wednesday morning.

With the entire Decatur County Board of Education, representatives from the City of Bainbridge and Decatur County, and representatives from Bainbridge State College present, the first shovels of dirt were moved for construction of the new school. The school will re-open for students with the start of the 2014 school year.

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“The old school was opened in the mid-1950s and so it was certainly time to consider an up-to-date facility for the students of Jones-Wheat Elementary,” said Decatur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield. “We are certainly glad to have that opportunity to begin this project.”

“This is truly progress for a community,” continued Rayfield.

Rayfield quoted Benjamin Franklin when describing the construction of the new school, “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Dr. Sydney Cochran, Chairman of the Decatur County Board of Education, spoke during the ceremony, reflecting on when he was a student at Jones-Wheat Elementary when the school initially opened in 1954.


Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds said, “For the City of Bainbridge this is a great accomplishment, we are excited about having the school rebuilt at this historic location. This remains a centerpiece of Shotwell Street and the City of Bainbridge.”

“The first thing that a company looks at when considering coming into a county is the education system and facilities. Here, we have facilities that are second to none and an education second to none,” said Russell Smith, Chairman of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners.

Dr. Larry Clark, long-time principal of Jones-Wheat Elementary said, “Today marks both an end and a beginning. It marks the end of the demolition of the old building and the beginning of the construction of new educational facility. We have waited many years for this day.”

Parker Lowe, a third-grade student of Jones-Wheat Elementary provided a student’s perspective on the project.

“I am excited about today because we are getting ready to see a new Jones-Wheat.  A new school being built means we will see bigger classrooms, new bathrooms, an air conditioned gym, a new lunchroom, a bigger library, and lots of space,” said Parker.

Quillian Powell Construction of Valdosta is the general contractor for the construction of the new school.

The cost of the new school is $12 million and will be paid for with funds generated from the one-cent E-SPLOST sales tax. Rayfield said that the debt for the construction of the school would be retired in five years.