History of BMS
Berkmar Middle School was built in 2004 to alleviate Sweetwater Middle School’s overcrowded conditions, caused by an influx of students moving to the Lilburn area. The name “Berkmar” dates back to the 1966 opening of the high school that was created when the Lilburn and Bethesda high schools consolidated. The new high school’s name was derived by combining part of the voting districts’ names of Berkshire and Martins, using “Berk” and “Mar” to create “Berkmar.”
The land on which Berkmar Middle School was built had originally been inhabited by the Lower Creek Indians. After a land lottery in 1820, the land was allocated and became a family farm for more than 200 years. Cotton and other crops were grown on the land, and one of the original buildings, which was used as a blacksmith shop, is still standing on the property. Margaret and Bob Stuebing, descendants of the original owners, sold the property to Gwinnett County Public Schools in 2002. Located at 4355 Lawrenceville Highway in Lilburn, Berkmar Middle School serves children and families from Lilburn, Duluth, Norcross, and Lawrenceville.
Construction of the school was completed in June of 2004, and Berkmar Middle School held its dedication ceremony on September 26, 2004. Dr. Barbara Lunsford, the school’s founding principal, welcomed all guests, who included Berkmar staff, students, families, county officials, and community members. The day’s events also included remarks from the Gwinnett County Board of Education members and CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. The program closed with teachers Beau Dominguez and Claudette Onumah presenting the school’s “Principles of Teaching and Learning.”
In 2015, after the student population continued to surge in the western part of Gwinnett County, the Discovery cluster opened to relieve the Berkmar and Central Gwinnett clusters. Berkmar Middle School’s attendance boundaries were redrawn, and its feeder elementary schools became G.H. Hopkins Elementary and Rebecca Minor Elementary.
Dr. Lunsford served as principal for the 2004-05 school year and for the first semester of the 2005-06 school year. When she retired in January of 2006, Mr. Kenney Wells, formerly an assistant principal at Osborne Middle School, became Berkmar’s principal. Ms. Nicole Tubbs, who served as an assistant principal at Berkmar Middle School and Peachtree Ridge High School, took the helm in August of 2014.
The school’s building is two stories, with 6th and 7th grade classes housed on the first floor and 8th grade classes on the second floor. The school has three computer labs and a media center complete with a TV production facility. The gymnasium includes a fitness room for staff and students and there is also a spacious athletic field behind the school with a full track. The Health and Physical Education Department has been awarded nearly $135,000 in grants, which have been used to furnish the school’s fitness center, buy gym equipment, and install the track. In 2014, the school also received a grant from the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation to repair orchestra equipment.
Berkmar Middle School serves a culturally diverse student body. Ninety-one percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. While the school’s enrollment has remained fairly consistent, the number of students served in the gifted education program has more than doubled since the school opened. Additionally, Berkmar Middle School has a robust special education department. The school houses a program for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students. Other special education programs serve students with autism, moderate intellectual disabilities, specific learning disabilities, and speech/language impairments.
The school also offers a variety of academic enrichment opportunities through its Connections classes and clubs. Connections classes allow students to explore different types of electives available in high school. Berkmar Middle School’s Connections classes include physical education, health, journalism, art, band, orchestra, and Math, Language Arts, and STEM enrichment. As of 2015, 8th grade students who are gifted and academically talented have the opportunity to earn high school credits in Algebra or Accelerated Algebra, Physical Science, Biology, and Spanish.
In the fall of 2005, a Title I Schoolwide Committee comprised of teachers, parents, and administrators began to work on a schoolwide plan, which was approved by the state in 2006. All Berkmar Middle School students benefit from Title I services, which include federal funds used to hire additional staff, to purchase instructional materials and technology, and to provide opportunities for collaborative instructional planning. Every classroom is equipped with an interactive SMART Board, and the school also has carts of laptops for teams of teachers to share. Additionally, as Berkmar Middle is a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) school, students can use their own devices to access technology for instructional activities.
In the 2014-15 school year, Berkmar Middle School launched initiatives focused on goal setting and literacy. The school will launch a Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports program to support student behavior.