NORTH FORSYTH — One steel beam in the new competition gymnasium at North Forsyth High School is marked with the signatures of teachers, faculty and staff.
On Friday, the beam bore a small Christmas tree as it was lifted into place above construction workers, school employees and county officials.
Barton Malow, the construction company currently in the process of completing a schoolwide additions and renovations project at North, held a topping off ceremony to recognize the completion of placing all structural steel for the gym.
“The celebration of topping out marks the building reaching its maximum height,” said Rob Scott, Barton Malow project engineer. “The tradition of placing a Christmas tree at the top is said to have traced its roots back to the dark ages of Scandinavian and Viking cultures.
“The ancient builders would place a tree atop their construction site to keep away the tree dwelling spirits that have been displaced by the construction and gathering of materials.”
Cold, misty weather prevented the second tradition: a flag to accompany the tree, signifying ownership similar to placing a flag on the top of a mountain or on the moon.
The overall project at North was funded through a voter-approved bond program and will be used at the school on Coal Mountain Drive for what District 4 Board of Education member Darla Light said has been “needed here for a long time.”
“Every school is growing … North is way over-capacity,” she said. “This is going to make a big difference in the way we house our students and the programs we can have.”
The project, which is expected to be completed in June, will add new classrooms, parking lots and an atrium cafeteria. It also includes a closed-off front entrance, which provides additional safety to students who will no longer have to go outside to change classes.
“It gives them the chance to expand their horizons and hopefully to do even more,” she said. “The look of education is going to change in Forsyth County in the next couple of years.”
While the ceremony was symbolic for the progress so far, Scott said, the day was really meant to honor the more than 260 construction workers enlisted for the project.
“During 200 work days they applied their bodies, minds and hearts into raising this structure out of the ground safely and quickly,” he said, noting that without their efforts the space may still be a grassy hill by the tennis courts.
“They endured the sweltering Georgia summer heat. They weathered 42 inches of rain and the sticky, slippery and downright nasty Georgia red clay mud that came with it,” he said.
And all that occurred while working around students walking and driving throughout campus.
“I remember being so excited about getting a high school in north Forsyth [in the early 1990s]. There was so much community pride,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills. “I see this $20 million project … this is like north Forsyth is coming to life.”
David Isbell, senior project manager for Barton Malow, said that fact that he has kids in the north Forsyth district made him want to be a part of “building our community.”
So Barton Malow did not simply build out the blueprints. The company donated an extra $10,000 to be used for a student union area.
“The student center will be developed in the main part of the central part of campus, outside the media center,” said Principal Jeff Cheney.
He added that he will meet with his student council — members of the student body government attended the ceremony — for input on how to use the funds in the student center.
“I started out a [Central] Bulldog in the county, but when my kids came here I became a Raider,” Light said during the ceremony. “And I’ve always loved North Forsyth.
“I’ve had kids here for 12 years, and I am so excited about all of the things that are happening here … and thank you to every one of you that’s here for your part in it and your part in the future of it. Go Raiders.”