The ribbon is cut and the proclamation read.

Now, Aiken County Public Schools' new Aiken Intermediate School is just waiting to welcome the 578 sixth graders in Area 1 in Aiken when classes start Aug. 19.

School district officials, along with School Board, government and community members, dedicated the school – the former Aiken Middle School – on Tuesday afternoon.

The school is the first and only school in the district to focus solely on the education of sixth graders, giving them a year to make the transition from elementary school to middle school. The school is one of three sixth-grade only intermediate schools in South Carolina.

“There is a buzz of excitement about the opportunities that are ahead for the students of Aiken Intermediate School,” said Principal Denise McCray, the former principal at Schofield Middle School. “AIS is focused on meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of sixth graders. This is an important transition. We will equip them with the tools to be successful as they move forward.

“We just want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to make this happen – for us to make history and for us to make this the best sixth-grade experience any kid could ever dream to have.”

In her remarks, Rosemary English called the dedication a “wonderful occasion.”

“I am excited to be here today. I am excited to welcome you today. But I am even more excited for the students who will be coming because they will have an opportunity to explore, to discover, to design, to create,” she said.

Aiken Intermediate School has been branded the “Home of the Explorers.” The new logo features Explorer, the school's mascot, facing outward to a world ready for exploration and discovery.

District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said students at Aiken Intermediate School have one important assignment this school year.

“The hardest thing you're going to have to do this year is just be a great sixth-grade student. That's all we want you to do and focus on,” he said. “Be a great sixth-grade student. Be yourself. Take a moment to enjoy school. We want this to be a joyful experience, and I know the teachers and the leaders here in this school are going to make that a special experience for you.”

Students can experience their new school a little early at Expedition AIS, a sixth-grade camp at the school, on Thursday.

“They'll get a chance to meet teachers, walk through their schedule, practice opening lockers and meeting new friends,” McCray said. “We'll be doing team-building activities and just getting them comfortable and prepared for the start of school, so on the first day of school, there won't be anything new. They'll know exactly where to go; they'll know their teachers; and they'll already have new friends.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.