'A fitting memorial': New elementary school named for Sandra Deal, late former first lady of Georgia

Sep. 26—The first of four new elementary schools in Hall County will be named after former Georgia first lady Sandra Deal, who died at age 80 in August after a battle with cancer.

On Monday, the Hall County school board unanimously voted to name the school Sandra Dunagan Deal Elementary School, located on Ramsey Road and scheduled to open in fall 2024.

In July, school board members approved $41.8 million in funding for the 133,000-square school, which will be able to hold up to 1,025 students. The school will replace both White Sulphur and Riverbend elementary schools.

"Our family appreciates the honor the Hall County Board of Education has bestowed on Sandra by naming this new elementary school after her," Nathan Deal, Sandra's husband and former Georgia governor, said in a press release from the school system. "She was an educator at heart! This will be a fitting memorial to her life as a teacher and as The First Lady of Georgia who was committed to literacy and learning."

Deal was a Gainesville native and had deep education roots in Hall County. She graduated from East Hall High School and taught for 15 years in the county school system, serving at Tadmore Elementary, North Hall High School and North Hall Middle School. Her mother, Ida Lou Waldrep Dunagan, taught second grade at White Sulphur Elementary.

In 2018, she was honored with the dedication of the Sandra Deal Secret Reading Garden at North Hall Middle School.

"Sandra grew up in New Holland and she taught and lived in North Hall," said Hall County Superintendent Will Schofield. "Naming this school after a Hall County woman who devoted her life to the next generation represents everything that is good, noble and true — in public education and in humanity."

Deal is remembered as a tireless advocate of children's literacy, having read to more than 250,000 students at more than 1,000 schools in all 159 of Georgia's counties.

School board member Sam Chapman said Deal taught his eldest son some 50 years ago when his son was a sixth grader at Tadmore Elementary.

"We've known Sandra a long time," he said. "We knew her before she was a Deal."

"Hall county's own, Sandra Deal, had a distinguished career in local education," said Craig Herrington, chairman of the Hall County school board. "It is appropriate that we honor and recognize Mrs. Deal's dedication to the children of Hall County and Georgia."