Principal Bruce Roaden, of City Schools of Decatur’s new 4/5 Academy, said that he remembered not too long ago “we were out back turning dirt” and praying that the school would be done on time.
The school was finished on time and on Aug. 2 it opened its doors to more than 500 fourth and fifth graders.
Located off Fifth Avenue in Oakhurst, the new building replaced the old Fifth Avenue Elementary, which had sat empty for the past few years.
“A school has stood in this neighborhood since about 1911 and on Fifth Avenue since 1924,” Roaden said. “We wanted to bring this whole corner of this neighborhood back to life.”
The school, which was a year and a half in the making, cost a little more than $8 million and is the first new school to be built in the Decatur system in more than three years.
Like the old Fifth Avenue, the 4/5 Academy’s colors are still red and black and the mascot is a falcon, but Karen Newton said that everything else looked totally different.
“It was only two stories, not three. The cafeteria was in the basement,” Newton said of the old building.
Newton, the school’s international baccalaureate program coordinator, taught fourth grade at Fifth Avenue in 2004 while Oakhurst Elementary, her home school, was being renovated.
“I like the whole four and five concept and to see that idea continue and grow, and for a building to be built for the teaching of just fourth and fifth graders is very exciting,” Newton said.
Newton said that having a school for all fourth and fifth graders in the system would make their transition to middle school easier and give them a chance to get to know each other beforehand.
“Before, all of the fourth and fifth graders were at different schools and when they came together at the middle school they just had their own separate clique,” Newton said.
Greg and Nicole Coleson, who have a daughter attending fourth grade at the academy, said that they thought the building and its features were beautiful.
“It really feels like a right of passage a little bit, [having her] move from elementary school into this four and five academy,” Nicole said of her daughter.
Greg said that he understood the concept of having a school strictly for fourth and fifth graders because it is a very formative time in a child’s life.
“Going from third to fourth grade is a big difference. When they’re in K-3 they’re still little babyish kids but now they’re much more interactive and have complex thoughts,” Greg said.
Nicole added that most teachers she spoke with about the four and five concept also said it was a good idea because the students get to be the oldest and the youngest at their school more times.
“It gives them more opportunities to be leaders throughout their childhood education,” Nicole said.
The only downside the Colesons saw was that they lived two miles away. Greg said that, for some parents, having their child attend the academy could be a tossup because they might rather have their child attend a K-5 school that’s closer to their house.
“I work with the walk and roll program with the schools and that’s going to be a big challenge to get kids to walk and ride their bike to school,” Greg said. “But we were looking at a tandem bike today.”