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Column: Middle school takeover case of history repeating
by Thornton Kennedy
Northside Neighbor Columnist
May 22, 2013 02:44 PM | 3219 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
This summer Sutton Middle School will take over a Buckhead high school, repeating a scene that has played out once before.

In the early 1970s, three public high schools served the community. North Fulton High School was the original, dating back to 1920. From 1932 to 1991 it was in a Neoclassical school building on North Fulton Avenue in Garden Hills. The Philip Trammel Shutze-designed building is now home to Atlanta International School.

The second was Northside High School, opened by the Fulton County Board of Education in 1950. It was located on Northside Drive, where North Atlanta High School is today. The third was William F. Dykes High School, opened in 1959 to meet the needs of the ever-growing community.

The first two were Fulton County Schools. The city annexed Buckhead in 1952. Dykes was the first Atlanta Public School high school in the community. The fate of the first two schools is further intertwined because in 1991 they combined to create North Atlanta High School on the Northside campus.

Dykes, on the other hand, barely lasted more than a decade before it became Sutton Middle in 1973, the name Dykes destined to be lost in the ever-changing rotation of historic names and places of our city. William F. Dykes was superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools from 1918-21. He was succeeded by none other than Willis Sutton, who served in the post for 23 years and is credited with reforming the system.

The students of Sutton are now preparing to move to the former Northside High School campus in the fall, while our Buckhead high-schoolers are moving up Northside Parkway to attend classes in the new North Atlanta High campus, formerly the local offices of computer giant IBM.

The former Dykes High will be home to the temporarily school-less E. Rivers students, whose building is being torn down and replaced. Eventually Sutton will become a sixth-grade academy.

Before North Fulton, which was considered out in the country when it opened, four main high schools served Atlanta. Founded in 1872, Boys High and later in 1909 Tech High co-existed on the campus of the current Grady High. Girls High also opened in 1872, occupying a site on Mitchell Street that is Atlanta City Hall today. Commercial High was opened in 1888 on Pryor Street as a business school for young ladies.

These schools have turned out some of our best and brightest over the years and, with community support and input, will continue to do so. It will take some getting used to the changes, but once we do, it will all change again, guaranteed.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and can be reached at

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