A GPS probably doesn’t take you to the site of Buford High School’s new academic, athletic and performing arts buildings when you search it. Perhaps it pings the campus that from 1990 through the 2018-19 school year housed Buford City Schools students from grades nine through 12.
You don’t need a GPS, though, to find the new campus.
East of Buford Highway stands a three-story academic cathedral flanked on either side by a performing arts building and athletic facility that would embarrass some collegiate campuses. Approval for funding of the new campus came in a landslide special election in 2015. At the time, the school system announced the project was projected to cost $50 million.
Boxes, storage shelves and classroom furniture are still being arranged — and some furniture is being purchased based on need. Some light construction work is still being completed, particularly on one of the staircases.
School Board Member Daren Perkins was touring the school with family on Tuesday and said it’s been a rewarding experience to see the blueprints and building plans turn into a structure.
“This facility showcases the resources that will be available to all the Buford City School students,” Perkins said. “What an amazing opportunity Buford High School students, including my daughter, have to walk the halls of a school that was meticulously designed to meet their needs to maximize their educational experience. I would have loved for my sons who graduated from BHS to be able to attend this new school. It’s an exciting time to be a Buford Wolf, and I look forward to all this new school provides our community.”
On Aug. 7, the first classes will be held in Buford High School. Teachers and administrators have already begun transitioning from their offices and classrooms in Buford High School and their new homes on the campus east of Buford Highway.
“We know transitions of this magnitude can be logistically challenging so we have tried to streamline our efforts to make it as easy as possible for our staff,” first-year Buford High School principal Lindsey Allen said. “Before the school year ended, we supplied our staff with boxes and moving materials to pack their classroom and those boxes have been delivered to their new classrooms, ready for them when they return. There were opportunities for the staff to tour the school so they can begin to get to know their new surroundings.”
Students will get their first look inside at an orientation on July 24. Buford’s annual freshman orientation, “Fresh Start” will introduce freshmen to their new school. They’ll never know what it was like to learn in the old building on Sawnee Avenue.
Self-guided tours will be open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. July 27 and 28, when the school system plans to hold its ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Tom Riden Stadium will still be used for football games. The school system purchased land across the street from the new campus to be used as space for a new football stadium. There have been discussions about building a pedestrian bridge across Buford Highway to connect the two sites.
When walking through the front doors of Buford High School, there are two administrative offices on either side. One will house an attendance office and the other will be an administrative office. The principal’s office is located in the same wing as the high school’s school resource officer, immediately to the right of the entrance. Grade-level administrators and guidance counselors share offices on each floor of the school.
After stepping into the building, the Buford “B” greets guests in the atrium and the floor includes flecks of green in the tile.
The school serves Buford City Schools in two ways, besides providing state-of-the-art facilities for students. First, the staff was pressed for space — primarily for storage — in what’s now the middle school building. While the new building has room for more classes and teachers to accommodate a growing student population, a school spokesperson said Tuesday Buford doesn’t plan to expand its student body numbers significantly in the near future. There will be space, though, to accommodate more students when that becomes necessary as new single-family developments continue to pop up within the school district.
The second function is a trickle-down of amenities for students and faculty at Buford Elementary School, Buford Academy, Buford Senior Academy and Buford Middle School. Buford Elementary School, which formerly held kindergartners and first-graders, will now be solely for kindergarten. Buford Academy will house first- through third-graders and the new Buford Senior Academy will take over the old middle school building for fourth- and fifth-graders.
This new arrangement leaves middle school students with the amenities and equipment that was formerly afforded to just high school students.
For example, band, chorus and orchestra students will be able use the spacious high school practice rooms and physical education classes have access to the high-school quality gym.
Buford consciously poured thought into providing a balance of quality space and equipment for it performing arts programs, as well as its athletics programs. The performing arts building is structured around an approximately 950-seat auditorium with a stage that a school spokesperson described as a hybrid between a high school-sized stage and a Broadway-sized stage.
The grand piano in the chorus room is perhaps one of the few pieces of equipment recycled from the old building. The rest — protective and lab appliances for science classrooms, suspended equipment for foreign language labs, ovens and other appliances for family and consumer sciences — is brand new.
“Though our new school might take a minute to get used to, our jobs remain the same, to educate students,” Allen said. “The classrooms may look different, but the goals and expectations of our school remain the same.”