Despite the sticker shock following media reports of the school’s hefty price tag, some parents and school leaders remain positive about the opening of the new North Atlanta High School.
Located at 4111 Northside Pkwy., the new campus is composed of four small schools built to accommodate 600 students each, for a total capacity of 2,400 students. The 507,093-square-foot facility will not include a football stadium but will have new football (practice), track, baseball and softball fields as well as new tennis courts. Early enrollment numbers project 1,560 students will attend classes there this fall.
Principal Howard “Gene” Taylor declined to comment for this article.
North Atlanta is the largest high school ever built in Atlanta Public Schools and some residents have said the $91 million renovation price tag on top of the $55 million paid for the 56.6-acre site — an unprecedented cost for any metro Atlanta high school — may be too much.
But others, including District 4 Atlanta Board of Education member Nancy Meister, who represents the Buckhead area, said the facility will be a positive addition to the school district and the community.
In a letter to constituents in July, Meister said a lack of land inventory and increased labor costs due to the use of federal dollars, among other variables and constraints, played into the high cost of the project. The new school is about 30 percent larger than Mays High School, the district’s next largest school, she said.
“While the total cost of this project is more than others, it is the result of the overall square footage being significantly higher,” Meister said.
Meister said the opening of the school is an exciting time for the Buckhead community and the school system at large.
“The opening of this state-of-the-art facility that is unique to the city, state and probably nation will be a landmark for the Atlanta Public School system,” she said.
Reide Onley, co-president of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, said he has already toured the facility and is impressed by its features.
“It’s an amazing property and an amazing building renovation,” said Onley, president of a commercial construction business. “The new building is a really unique environment and will be a unique experience for students coming in.”
Onley said he took exception to reports comparing the North Atlanta renovation, which added more than 124,000 square feet of space to the building that previously housed an IBM office, to high schools outside of the city where land is less expensive.
“I don’t think it’s very fair to compare that high school with the built-from-the-ground-up, two-story high school built in Henry County,” he said. “That’s apples and oranges. … I’ve been in the construction business 20 years, and it’s difficult for me to compare it [with any other development.]”
Onley said the school also provides a great opportunity to attract a top-notch superintendent to replace Erroll Davis, who plans to retire when his contract expires in December 2014.
“The vision and commitment to delivering this kind of a product I think is commendable,” Onley said. “I think you need something like this. I would think this would be a very attractive facility, something to hang our hat on, to bring the kind of superintendent to APS we want to see.”
Now that North Atlanta is out of its old facility, Sutton Middle School will permanently relocate to that campus at 2175 Northside Drive. E. Rivers Elementary School will relocate to the old Sutton campus temporarily while that school is rebuilt. E. Rivers students will move back to their campus in January 2015. At that time, Sutton sixth-graders will move back to the old campus while seventh- and eighth-graders will remain at the former North Atlanta High.