The first project outlined in the Auburn City Schools Facilities Plan 2024 opened this week as Board of Education officials, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham Jr. and ACS administration participated in a ceremonial ribbon cutting just outside of the new Auburn High School main entrance.
"For more than five years we have planned for this to happen," said Dr. Karen DeLano, ACS superintendent, as she stood in front of the 350,000 square foot facility. "The community has committed to having good learning spaces for our children, and this is one step in our (Facilities) Plan 2024.
"It is monumental; it's historical ... and it's just the beginning of new, wonderful things."
The campus, located at 1701 Samford Avenue, consists of three buildings — a main academic building, a fine arts building and an athletics building — and will house grades 10-12 with a capacity for 2,200 students.
To ease the flow of traffic during a normal school day, there are three entrances. Students will access campus from Glenn Avenue; visitors will enter at the main entrance off Samford Avenue, and buses will use an entrance off East University Drive. To accommodate students and faculty, 1,100 parking spaces will be available.
Each classroom will have a SMART Board — or interactive whiteboard — and access to Wi-Fi, and glass walls line most classrooms to allow for visibility and outside observance. DeLano said the $72 million facility contains many new technologies and that she is excited about the improvements the facility will bring to career technical courses.
"Our career tech program really will shine in this building," she said. "They're scattered throughout the whole facility ... If you go through the building now, you'll see some of those areas look like big, empty rooms, but it's so we can roll in and out equipment, and it was designed that way so we can keep up (with growth)."
Auburn High School Principal Dr. Shannon Pignato said both students and teachers are eager to get started in the new school.
"I think what we did and do at the current AHS has been wonderful and solid and really laid a great foundation, but for the students to walk into a facility that is brand new that has all of the newest equipment and resources, I think that's going to revitalize what they see learning as being for them," she said. "I have not heard anything (from teachers) but just 'When can we get there? How soon?' "
Pignato said she has been involved in the planning process for a couple years, helping with design, furniture selection and other details.
"From the very beginning, I've felt a very big part of the process," Pignato said. "The teachers as well have had a good part in what they need to be able to be the most successful teachers they can for our students, so that's a great part of what I think has made this facility so beautiful."
Some areas of the high school were designed with the community in mind. The 900-seat auditorium could be used for community events or the large cafeteria can be space for future public forums and community gatherings. Board of Education President Tracie West encouraged community members to utilize the building.
"This school is really for the community," she said. "We want you to enjoy it. Come exercise; come see events. Our architects have designed a building that is stunning. I hope that you will enjoy it for many, many years."
Moving vans will mobilize on Thursday to start moving teachers into the new high school. After that, the Auburn Junior High School will move to the old Auburn High building on Dean Road, then seventh-grade teachers will move into the old junior high school — now titled East Samford School — on Samford Avenue.
With the first project in the Facilities Plan 2024 complete, ACS will move onto its next project — a new elementary school off Richland Road. The project has already gone out for bid, but the construction contract has yet to be awarded. Ground is expected to be broken on June 1, and the school will open in time for the 2018-19 school year.
Once it is complete, another new elementary school — to be paired with Yarbrough Elementary — is expected to open in 2021. Land has not yet been purchased for this project, but the ACS Ad Hoc Land Committee — of which BOE officials Bill Hutto and Melanie Chambliss are members — met this week in an executive session to discuss future land acquisitions.
The Facilities Plan 2024 does plan for Auburn to become a city with two high schools, outlining a second high school to open in 2022. Land for the second high school was purchased in May 2016 and is located off Richland Road.