Lost amid the shuffle of tax talk, facilities reports, and teacher pay is a major move for Hamilton County schools.  A new middle school is opening in the Howard High School building, utilizing long abandoned space.  And their goal is to reinvent the middle school experience. 

Principal Mardee Miller wasn't quite sure what she was getting into a year ago, when she was recruited from Oak Ridge to open a new middle school at Howard. That part of the building hadn't been used, or touched since the old Howard Elementary School closed thirteen years ago. She found "four walls, and little else," but students will soon be greeted with an all new atmosphere, including new technology, wiring and lighting.

During the past year, she has built a curriculum, hired a staff, and turned the entire middle school concept upside down.  The school is called the Howard Connect Academy, and will welcome it's first group of 150 sixth graders when the new school year begins.  The school will add a sixth grade class for the next two years before reaching full capacity. Teachers will be called learning designers, and classrooms will feature long blocks with multiple subjects being taught at the same time.

And it's not just what's happening on the inside that has the Howard community buzzing.  The long neglected “H” at the entrance of the school had long been covered up with growth, beyond recognition.  Luis Otero, owner of Refined Home Finishes, offered to restore the H to its former glory. It was a three day job, and the results are very impressive. "It's like night and day," he said. "I can't wait for everyone to see it."

Luis's brother Jose Otero is the English Language Learning director and soccer coach for the school, and he says Howard Connect's incoming 6th graders and their parents, are in for a treat. The new football/soccer stadium opens August 24th. 

It's a middle school like no other, and principal Miller says students who were once confined to small classrooms, and rarely ventured outside their neighborhoods will soon get an out of this world education.  NASA is among national partners with the school, while local businesses including Keller Williams Realty have also signed up.  Students will get their first look at the school on August 6th.