If change and growth have been defining Forsyth County for the past couple decades, the area’s oldest — and for some time only — high school is contributing to that continuum.
Forsyth Central High School administration members hosted the Board of Education and the Rotary Club of Forsyth County on Thursday for a private tour of the facilities that have been erected this year and will be ready for students come Aug. 4.
Beginning with the new entrance to the school – it is now on Elm Street instead of Tribble Gap Road – students will walk into the front office before spilling out into the student union center.
The cafeteria overlooks the student lounge corridor, which looks out onto the practice football field in the center of the campus.
“We want them to come through and we want them to feel like they’re part of Central,” said Precilla Saint-Jean, an assistant principal at the school.
The cafeteria, which will fit all students instead of having a separate cafeteria on the school’s east and west campus, and other new facilities were designed with a specific goal in mind.
“The architecture, I think, is very modern and very industrial,” Saint-Jean said, “and I think very trendy.”
The media center sits across the hall from the cafeteria, featuring new study rooms, a computer lab with Chromebooks and private conference rooms.
The technology corridor serves to connect east and west campuses into a centralized gathering point for students, modeled after Emory University.
The theme, said Principal Mitch Young, was to combine the past and the present in a setting that resembles a college campus.
“We’ve had two campuses for so long and one of the unique features about Central is having the students crossing back and forth, so it’s always been a college feel. To connect them, we wanted to maintain that feel,” Young said.
What makes Central special, he said, is the community connection, which he did not want to lose.
“We’re the original Forsyth County High School. The town of Cumming has adopted our school, and there’s a closeness,” he said. “Many of the members of the Rotary Club went here, whether it was Forsyth County or Central, or their kids have gone through here. And many of our county office staff, if they’ve been here for some time, they’ve sent their kids here, so there’s really a family feel that we have in close connection with the community of Cumming.”
Signage seen around the campus was funded by the Forsyth Central High School Alumni Association, which was created last year for the school’s 60th anniversary.
Young said it was a struggle to find money for the “special extras” like the signs, as state and local monies have to be allocated toward construction.
“The alumni association … raised thousands of dollars for us, and this was the first thing they wanted to invest in,” he said.
“I can go on and on and on. We are thrilled at what they gave us here.”
Central is set to welcome about 725 freshman and more than 2,300 total students this week, according to Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden.
The student body will remain the smallest of the county’s five traditional public high schools, with the 37-school system as a whole estimating an enrollment close to 46,000 students.
The district — currently the seventh-largest in the 181-district state — has been increasing enrollment by about 1,800 students per year for the last five or six years, Bearden said.
“At this rate,” he said, “we will bypass Atlanta Public Schools in two or three years.”