$10.78 million North Gwinnett High construction continues

SUWANEE — For the first time in eight years, the North Gwinnett High campus has open space previously occupied by classroom trailers.

The famously landlocked school is moving on to the next phase of a series of construction upgrades and former Principal Ed Shaddix said excitement was evident throughout the hallways even before Thanksgiving. Construction crews are scheduled to work into next summer in the front of the school, and in the old 100 building and facade area to renovate those areas.

The new addition and renovation work will increase the number of classrooms by 10, consists of nearly 90,000 square feet, and will help eliminate most of the school’s need for portable classroom trailers.

“The newness and the smell of fresh paint, everybody’s real excited,” said Shaddix, who was recently promoted to an assistant superintendent position at the district office and replaced by Norcross High Assistant Principal Nathan Ballantine.

The front of the building, including the administration area, was vacated last month for the work that’s scheduled to be finished in time for the beginning of school next August.

The construction caused several changes and detours in and around the school.

School access is now through the Commons lobby doors, and the front office, reception and attendance desk areas are moved to the new three-story building just outside the Commons. The front circle is closed except for morning drop off, and the front sidewalk and front circle parking are both closed until completion.

Morning dropoff changes include a lane shift once motorists enter the circle, and a one-way pedestrian walkway in the direction of vehicular traffic. The front circle is closed to all school traffic at 7:15 a.m. until the next morning. All traffic should park in the Senior Lot and enter the school at the Commons lobby, and then take an immediate right to the three-story building.

Student pickup between 2:10 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. remains the same. For pickup after 2:30 p.m., cars are not allowed to enter the bus lane or wait on West Price Road before 2:30 p.m. Students who need to be picked up after 2:30 can be picked up in the bus lane.

Earlier phases of this three-part project saw the installation of new air conditioning systems in both gyms and locker room areas and the installation of a new metal roof on the auxiliary gym. This work was completed over this past summer and also included some renovation work in the band and orchestra room.

The $10.78 million project was paid for by a 2007 special purpose local option sales tax that adds a three-story building, which will replace the original building that was built in 1956 and ’57. The new building will have a media center, science classrooms, special education classrooms and a technology education lab. It will also have a counselor suite and a large multi-purpose activity area.

The final parts of the project include upgrading carpeting, new energy efficient lighting, painting and installing some new energy management systems, said Danny Jardine, the district’s chief operations officer. The last phase is to do a major renovation of the existing football fieldhouse, which will begin after next football season to be ready for the 2015-16 school year.

The school’s students, staff and community have dealt with parking issues caused by the 24 trailers, which affected practice field space and parking. It was of such importance that to start last school year, the school’s orientation event was centered on detours and changes.

The renovated classrooms are larger and offer more access to technology, including furniture that allows for more hands-on instruction, Shaddix said. North Gwinnett is one of five “pilot clusters” the district tabbed for its new eCLASS initiative.

“The students and community have been very patient in waiting for it to be retrofitted and refurbished,” Shaddix said. “They’ve done everything they said they were going to do, and more.”