The new Coosa High School has a little bit of everything, including wider hallways, more windows, sturdier walls and even a staircase that some students are convinced was designed with a major literary influence in mind.
“I’m pretty sure they were thinking about the staircases at Hogwarts when they designed this,” Coosa student Kayla Ngo said with a laugh.
More than 200 people braved the chilly morning Tuesday to attend the ribbon-cutting and tour of the new school, a $32 million education local option sales tax project.
Students will walk the halls officially when they return from the holiday break on Jan. 5.
Coosa Principal Trevor Hubbard welcomed the crowd and talked about what seems to be a Coosa High tradition. “God’s given us a late Christmas present several times,” he said, smiling. “The Coosa high schools that opened in 1931, 1948 and 1970 all opened in January.”
Hubbard said he started researching a mural on the walls of the old Coosa High about four years ago and remembered the story when he started preparing his speech for the ribbon-cutting. The mural is of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
“Like most kids, when I attended school here from ’83 to ’86, I didn’t think about it much,” he said. “But when I started looking into it, I found that the first Coosa school burned down in 1929, was rebuilt and burned down again in 1945. We really did rise from the ashes.”
The current school building was built in 1969, he added.
“For all those years, this grand old lady over there stood,” he said, as he pointed to the old school from the new school’s main entrance. “It seems like this is the way it is supposed to be.”
Hubbard said he is looking forward to starting the new year in the new building.
“Right now, it’s empty, maybe seems a little like it’s missing something,” he said. “When the students arrive back from break, its heart will begin to beat. It’s a great time in Eagle Nation.”
Donna Blanton, who graduated from Coosa in 1972, said she and her husband Steve were stunned as they walked up to the new school.
“It took my breath away,” she said.
Students at the ceremony were filled with anticipation of the new year.
“I think school pride is going to increase,” said Michelle Carnahan, sophomore. “I think people are going to start seeing Coosa in a whole new light.”
Mia Thompson, also a sophomore, was especially pleased with the cafeteria.
“Eagle Eatery, it’s so cute,” she said.
The three stories seemed a bit daunting at first, but Michelle said school officials have been working to make it easier for students to travel the bigger space.
“They’ve changed the bell schedule so we have more time between classes, especially before and after lunchtimes so we can get to different floors.”
Students are looking at the staircase as an added benefit.
“Hey, no more cardio needed,” Alexis Abney said. “Just look at the stairs.”
Olivia West said all the windows give the building a refreshing feeling of openness.
“We won’t feel boxed in anymore,” she said. “Also, now we have real walls instead of folding ones.”
Coosa High will be filled with workers right after the students leave on Dec. 17, according to Tim Hensley, assistant to the Floyd County Schools superintendent.
“We have a moving plan in place” he said. “It’s a lot of coordination.”
System officials plan to have the old school on Alabama Highway emptied as soon as possible and then turn it over to Ra-Lin, the firm in charge of construction of the new school and demolition of the old.
“Ra-Lin workers will wrap up the school to seal it off so no one can get back inside,” Hensley said.
Demolition of the old gymnasium will begin today, according to officials.
Demolition of the old academic building will begin sometime between late December and early January. In its place, a new gymnasium, a fine arts building and more parking will be constructed.