Gwinnett County Public Schools has opened a themed high school each of the past two years, but the district is taking on new ambition with the design of its newest high school.

District officials said the new artificial intelligence-themed Seckinger High School in Buford will be part of the district’s first themed cluster in August of 2022.

The last two high schools the district opened, Paul Duke STEM High School and McClure Health Science High School, relieved overcrowding in the Norcross High School cluster and Meadowcreek High School cluster, respectively. Seckinger will do the same for the Mill Creek High School cluster in 2021.

“From the onset, we had what I would call a good bit of success in the theme schools,” associate superintendent Steve Flynt said to members of the Board of Education on Thursday. “We had the discussion early on about whether there would be enough growth (in the Mill Creek cluster) to require a new cluster. We really did need that, but we hated to lose the opportunity to be able to continue that work around a theme.”

Seckinger is different from the previous theme schools. Students in Norcross and Meadowcreek clusters were given the options to attend Paul Duke or McClure. Student living in the future Seckinger cluster are districted to attend Seckinger High School.

Seckinger High School will be a themed high school with its own attendance zone. Students kindergarten through 12th grade will be introduced to artificial intelligence-centric curriculum.

Seckinger High School will be located on the northwest side of Interstate 85 in Buford, opposite of Mill Creek High School. Addressed for 3621 Sardis Church Road, Seckinger sits between Sardis Church road and West Rock Quarry Road.

Unlike Paul Duke and McClure high schools, Seckinger will host athletics. A preliminary site plan includes a football stadium, practice field, baseball and softball complexes and four tennis courts. Flynt said the placement of the baseball and softball fields will be approximately rotated 180 degrees from their orientation of the plans.

There is a retention pond and another body of water on the site plan. The site of the school is near Hamilton Mill Road, where it crosses over Interstate 85.

“Mill Creek High school has been overcrowded for some time, we’re seeing a good bit of building in the area,” Flynt said. “With the increase is the number of students projected over the next couple of years, this is a well-needed high school in the area.”

Jones Middle School, whose mascot is the Hawks and currently feeds Mill Creek High School, is the most logical feeder school for Seckinger given its location northwest of Interstate 85. While not official, GCPS CEO and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Jones Middle School, along with Ivy Creek, Harmony and Patrick elementary schools are being considered to be included in the Seckinger cluster.

The Board of Education also approved a contract to purchase a tract of land adjacent to the Seckinger site for a future school in the Seckinger cluster, which would be located at 2640 Rock Quarry Road in Buford.

Flynt said district officials and Mill Creek cluster schools are working to design the theme of the entire Seckinger cluster, top to bottom. Curriculum and Instruction Executive Director Babak Mostaghimi and Jones Middle School principal Memorie Reesman have been collaborating to flesh out the design of the theme from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Mostaghimi said there will be a projected 59 million jobs in artificial intelligence and machine learning by 2030. Seckinger High School’s cluster is launching to prepare students for college or to immediately enter the workforce with experience and certifications in the field of computer science and artificial intelligence. The sixth grade class at Jones Middle, which will be freshmen when Seckinger opens. That class will also be the first scheduled to graduate college in 2030.

“We want the students (at Seckinger) to be ready for those careers and jobs as opposed to the jobs and careers today,” Mostaghimi said.

Flynt said Seckinger is likely to be closed to permissive transfers during the first year, but will be open in subsequent years based on capacity. The first graduating class to enroll at Seckinger High School as freshmen are currently sixth graders at Jones Middle School.

Flynt said construction is scheduled to begin in June 2020. The school will be more than 900,000 square feet and sit on approximately 85 acres. The architect is Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart and Associates and the construction manager is Carroll Daniels Construction.

The high school projects space for 2,800 students. There are unique learning spaces in the plan, including three lecture halls with a capacity of more than 100 people. There are approximately 149 instructional units in the building plan. Seckinger is the first GCPS themed high school to host athletics.

In December 2018, the Board of Education voted to name the new theme high school opening in the Mill Creek Cluster after former District II Board Member Daniel D. Seckinger. He served the Gwinnett County Board of Education for 24 years. He elected not to defend his seat in the 2018 election.

The total cost for the project will be within the budget of the 2019 General Obligation Bond program.

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Taylor Denman is a reporter born and raised in Gwinnett County. He came back home to seize the rare opportunity of telling stories about the county in which he grew up.

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