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IL dedicates new middle school

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By Karen Paulson

INDIAN LAND - Students, parents, teachers, school officials and visitors gathered Sunday afternoon to celebrate the dedication of Indian Land Middle School, the first school dedicated solely to middle school students in the history of the Indian Land schools.

"We thought this day would never come," eighth-grade class president Michael Rodriguez told the audience at the school dedication Sunday. "But it is here, a school we can call ours, a middle school."

Rodriguez spoke for a few moments about the middle schoolers' new environment, where they began classes this semester on Jan. 15.

"Right away, we saw the benefits of our new school," he said. "There are two computer labs, computers in all the classrooms, smaller class sizes with the increase of faculty, brighter classrooms, new desks, wider halls and a real science lab."

He thanked teachers for their hard work during the move.

"They taught us by day, packed boxes during planning and prepared our new rooms by night," Rodriguez said. "We have the best and we will be the best."

Sunday's ceremony was dedicated to remembering the history of Indian Land schools.

Speakers lauded the school district and staff for the hard work that went into transforming the old high school, built in 1980, into a new state-of-the-art middle school.

Former school board member Brian Carnes, who represented the Indian Land area for eight years, commented on the process.

"Our society is very much a throw-away society. So it is refreshing that we have the opportunity to remake something old into something new," he said.

A $5.3 million renovation converted the former high school into the new middle school after the new Indian Land High School opened in August. Indian Land middle school students were previously housed with the elementary school population.

"This is a new school for you," Carnes told the middle schoolers. "But you need to remember there were many who walked these halls before you."

He encouraged the students to make those who have gone before them proud.

Bennett Gunter, former superintendent of the Indian Land schools, took the audience down memory lane as he recounted the schools' history. He told about schools that have long been demolished, the hard work of the people of Indian Land to provide their children with places to learn and the students who have passed through the Indian Land schools over the years.

"I am especially proud of Dr. Moore," he said of Gene Moore, now superintendent of Lancaster County School District.

Moore was one of Gunter's students at Indian Land High School in the 1970s. Gunter told the audience that Moore was not only an excellent student, but also an excellent basketball player and is now an excellent school administrator.

Gunter said he's proud that Indian Land has a climate that inspires students to do their best.

Principal David McDonald's remarks pointed the audience toward the future.

"As we look to the future, we can't help but to think about what those who come after us will say about the job we do today," he said. "We have the opportunity in this school to provide our students with tons of technology, innovative ideas, but most importantly, having our own school means that we get to teach our students the power of pride and the excitement of building an identity."

He invited everyone to tour the school after the ceremony.

"I hope you will see the pride in the workmanship, the lessons that are coming to life in our classrooms and the technology that far exceeds anyone's predictions," he said.

Students from all three grade levels were heavily involved in the ceremony, leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem, and offering two choral numbers for the audience to enjoy. Indian Land High School's JROTC presented the colors. Moore led the audience through the responsive dedication with the assistance of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade class representatives. Those representatives then went on to cut the ribbon. The National Junior Honor Society offered light refreshments afterward as visitors toured the new school.