Garner Magnet High students and teachers, and county and town leaders joined together in a ceremony Thursday to break ground at the high school, where renovations begin this summer.
Students and teachers gave speeches about their time at the current school and told of what Garner High School has meant to them. For many teachers and students who will continue on at the school when the renovations are complete, the reconstruction will signify a new beginning.
For seniors who won’t get to experience the renovations, but plan to return, the feeling is of pride in what they accomplished at the school, Avion Jenkins, 18, said.
“It was kind of eye-opening to me, because it didn’t seem real until today, that this school is actually being torn down,” Jenkins said. “Our parents have gone here, and our grandparents. It was an honor to be able to be here and enjoy this moment with the town of Garner.”
Said Hayleigh Young, 18, of her experience at GMHS: “All people, no matter who you are, no matter race, age, it’s all different. You can all have a story.”
Soon those stories will be memories that they and other students will take with them as they move on to college and the real world.
Renovation on the 48-year-old campus will begin this summer. Three-fourths of the school will be demolished and rebuilt by the summer of 2018. The rest of the school will be renovated and made into a connected four-story building.
The softball and baseball fields will stay in the same location but will have some improvements. The football stadium’s concession stands, locker rooms and restrooms will also be renovated.
The main gymnasium, on the first floor, will have more seating added to the home side. There will also be an outdoor dining space where the existing administration office is. Only two mobile classrooms will remain on campus in case of unexpected growth.
The mobile classrooms will be used for JROTC and the school’s Fire Safety Academy program.
The school will have a capacity of 2,350 students, and there will be five points of access off Spring Drive.
“This building has been a great home for our teaching of generations of students,” GMHS Principal Carter Hillman said in front of the nearly 50 people in attendance. “And we’re looking forward to many more generations of students to come.”
“When our new home is ready, we will move back with pride, nostalgia and the vigor that makes Trojan nation what it is right now, what is to come and what it will continue to be.”
Demolition will begin July 5.
While the renovations are underway, Garner High students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades will relocate to the new South Garner High for two years, starting in August.
Ninth-graders will use the Ninth Grade Center until the renovations are complete. After that, all students will move into the new campus. Both the new South Garner High and the newly remade Garner Magnet High School will open to their new students in the fall of 2018.
The current Garner Magnet High School building was first opened in the fall of 1968. It was opened to house both black and white students in Garner as the Wake County School System began desegregation. It was one of three schools in the county school system to start the process.
The new school, located on Spring Drive, would soon be called Garner Senior High.
Prior to the move, black students attended Garner Consolidated School, while white students attended Garner High School.
Wayne Bare was the principal at the time of the opening. He was principal for a year at Garner High prior to the move. Bare said he and his staff tried to use techniques to make sure the transition for the students and teachers to integrated schools was one that was smooth.
“I was aware of how groups of people tend to be suspicious of the unknown,” Bare said. “And people of both schools were suspicious of how people were going to hire coaches and who’s going to have the power.”
So Bare arranged for students at Garner Consolidated to visit and spend part of the day with the teachers and students at Garner High, and also had students at Garner High visit and spend their day with the teachers and students at Garner Consolidated. He said it happened on six occasions.
“There was s significant benefit with people getting acquainted with each other,” Bare said. “They also talked about school colors, and school mascots and trying not to carry over traditions of those schools. We had a lot of preparation for bringing the students in the school.”
Bare said being the first principal of the newly desegregated school is something that he took pride in.
“I still have pride in that,” Bare said.