by Jessica Reyes
North Springs Charter High School is one of the oldest high schools in Sandy Springs, in one of the most affluent areas in Atlanta. It is the only high school in Georgia that provides a Dual Magnet program which involves student participation in Math/Science, Performing/Visual Arts, or both. North Springs has high ranking courses that encourage students to challenge themselves, including 24 Advanced Placement classes and 20 Honors Courses. The North Springs curriculum is structured to help students with their desired careers, such as real-world experience through eight career pathways. Another special feature of the school is providing a variety of extracurricular activities in which anyone can participate. The school seems to have all of the elements of success, except for one thing: A modern building.
The current building, which stands on its original site, opened 54 years ago. It has experienced add-on sections and a revamped front entrance over the course of its many years, as well as renovated athletic fields, bus lanes, handicapped ramps, and parking lot. In the past year, a clear effort has been made to keep the halls bright, cheerful and clean; colorful college flags adorn the front hallway; the art department and student showcase displays lining the front hallways near a lounge-like waiting area and Hi-definition display screens. The veneer of these changes masks a harsh reality: 50+ years in human terms is middle age and the building is showing signs of a middle-age crisis.
Everyone who has attended knows North Springs how the school infamously faces design challenges: its sprawling, labyrinth halls and stairs are not easy to navigate or monitor. Small congested department hallways, damaged ceiling tiles, clogged bathroom drains, and classrooms with no outside view are also part of the problem. Students are put in small but crowded classrooms. The class sizes affect student schedules and crowded halls affect tardies.
According to Fulton County Schools, Riverwood High received new accommodations for the brand new building as far back as 2015. In order to achieve this goal, the school took over the old Heards Ferry Elementary building.About 117,000 square feet were slated for the new Riverwood, which is gradually phasing out its old building. The Reporternewspaper reported: “…the Riverwood master plan, feature[ed] a huge, mansion-like new high school on the center of the property, sprouting various wings for such uses as visual arts and an ‘information center’ (known in old-school lingo as the library). A huge new gym and theater facility…occupy much of the footprint of the existing school.” If Riverwood can get all these new upgrades, why not North Springs?
Following a September board meeting, Patrick Burke, FCS Chief Operating Officer, and his team came to the North Springs School Governance Council Meeting on Thursday, September 14th to present information about the capital plan for North Springs (funded by SPLOST) and to answer questions. Although the school won’t receive a new structure, Burke verified that the architect would collect input from key stakeholders to create a detailed assessment of deficiencies. The architect would then develop plans to address the deficiencies and bring the school up to the standards of newer schools. A recent presentation to school members confirms that plans are underway for architectural additions and expansions, with the construction completion projected around 2019, with specific details about the plans forthcoming.
The Oracle put some questions to North Springs students about what they would like to see happen with the campus. Here are their responses:
Do we need a new building?
Carron Goodridge 11th: Yes, we need a new building for better renovations.
Juan Carlos Diaz 11th: I don’t think we need a new building.
How do you feel about other schools getting new buildings but North Springs getting renovations?
Lauren Sanders 11th: I think North Springs deserves a new building because this is the oldest school in Fulton. If you compare our school to Milton, our school looks like a huge disaster and is ten times worse.
Chad Becker 11th: I think this [would only seem to] make our school stand out more [based on] its physical appearance rather than what North Springs offers to make students successful.
Would a new building help students be successful? Why/why not?
Lauren Sanders 11th: A new building for North Springs won’t influence students in any way. It’s just a building that after a few weeks after being built won’t mean anything anymore.
Chad Becker 11th: This school doesn’t need a new building to make students more successful. They need discipline to become more successful
What are some issues with the current building?
Itzel Gomez 10th: Some issues around this building are the classrooms, ceiling tiles, restrooms, and [the] need for more windows.
Natalie Hill 11th: The biggest issue in this school is the restrooms, although I don’t really use them.
Do you feel our school is valued. Why/why not?
Lauren Sanders 11th: You see students not appreciating North Springs by throwing things on the floor and leaving their food behind in the lunch area which causes some of the things we need to improve in this school.
Natalie Hill 11th: This school isn’t valued because many people leave everything behind in the cafeteria.
What type of improvements would you like to see in the renovated North Springs building?
Itzel Gomez 10th: The improvements this school needs are like renovated restrooms. Some of these restrooms don’t have doors, and sometimes paper or even soap which is really gross.
Liam Pfister 12th: The major issue here at North Springs is that the school isn’t taken care of. That’s why we need renovations such as having new ceiling tiles, new walls, or respecting bathrooms.
What are some things you’d like to see in a new building if we had one?
Juan Carlos Diaz 11th: I would like to see bigger hallways because sometimes when I try walking through, they’re so crowded and I can’t get through.
Carron Goodridge 11th: At North Springs I would like to see more and bigger classrooms so there could be more course opportunities so more people can be involved in what they are passionate about.