Paul Lawson craned his head up, trying to take in the scale of the new campus of his son’s high school.
“How can I put it,” he said. “Massive?”
That’s one way. Students called it “very big” and “huge.”
The new North Atlanta High, located at former IBM campus on Northside Parkway, officially opened its doors Aug. 7. As they waited for the doors to open, some students chattered away. Others listened to music through headphones.
Some students getting out of their cars looked wide-eyed at their surroundings. Other students carried their book bags like a brief case.
Teachers, students and parent volunteers exchanged hugs.
As one student prepared to pass through the school’s metal detectors, getting her purse ready for inspection, she made a confession to a friend.
“I’m nervous,” she said. “I feel like a freshman again.”
North Atlanta begins a new chapter, but there’s no telling whether old controversies will continue to arise within the school. The school is the most diverse in Atlanta, but that diversity has at times created division among parents of black students who feel the school gives an unfair advantage to the white students from Buckhead.
Atlanta Public Schools removed the school’s leadership in October of last year, saying the changes were due to low test scores.
There’s also been controversy about the school’s cost. Its nearly $150 million price tag makes it the most expensive public high school ever built in Georgia.
The new campus includes a lake, a rifle range for the ROTC and athletic fields, among other amenities. The buidling stands 11 stories tall, sits on 56 acres and has a capacity to hold 2,400 students, a sign of the growth of the North Atlanta public school cluster.
Some parents were hesitant to endorse the cost as they looked at the breathtaking size of the campus. “I guess time will show whether it was worth it or not,” Lawson said.
Parents beamed at the new school as they watched their children walk through the front door. Anne McClatchey has two children in school and she remembers when it was still an IBM campus and she was an employee of the company. McClatchey hoped the corporate feel of the new school will make the students more appreciative of their education.
“I think it’s going to make the students stand up a little taller and work a little harder,” McClatchey said.
Freshman Bailey Nunnally got his first lesson in office dress codes on the way to class. As he walked toward the front door, the man who had dropped him off rolled down the window of his SUV.
“Bailey,” the man said. “Hat.”
Nunnally pointed to the ball cap on his head and nodded. He said he’s impressed by the new campus.
“It’s actually really nice,” Nunnally said. “There’s enough access to every floor for every student.”
At the door, parent volunteer Linda Boatwright waved students through the door, greeting them as they passed.
“Good morning babies. Good morning young man. Good morning ladies.”
A reporter asked for her name and she stood up a little taller.
“I’m Momma Boatwright,” she said with a smile. “This is my house.”