As Elizabeth Sanchez and her brother and mom walked around the hallways of South Garner High School Wednesday, they stopped to look at their schedules for the upcoming school year.
Like many other Garner High School students touring South Garner’s campus for the first time, she seemed confused about where things were. Elizabeth, 16, a rising junior, looked around at the stairs, the halls and the different classrooms.
“I’m going to get lost on the first day,” she laughed.
Her younger brother, Josh, 14, agreed. He will be a freshman at Garner Magnet High School this year. Nearly half of his classes will be taken at Garner High’s Ninth-Grade Center, while the other half will be taken at South Garner High School’s campus.
South Garner High School opened its doors for the first time to the public Wednesday morning. Garner High School students will take classes on the new campus for two years, while workers complete a $73.7 million renovation of the aging campus.
With school starting Monday, parents and students were given an opportunity get a feel for the school by finding their classes and meeting their new teachers.
“I love it. It’s beautiful,” Barbara Fouquette, Elizabeth and Josh’s mom, said as she looked around a chemistry lab. “I’m glad that everything in here is in one building, and you have covered hallways. And you’re not going to have to go from building to building.”
The new three-story school building is designed to house 2,350 students. It covers 328,979 square feet. There will be six mobile units on campus, but they will not be used during the two years the Garner Magnet High students are on campus.
The school has Wi-Fi throughout the building.
Another feature to the school is a classroom and kitchen, specifically for its culinary arts program.
Students interested in becoming a chef or caterer will be able to take a culinary arts class. South Garner High is the first school in the county to have sand volleyball as a part of physical education and competition sports.
The school has a gymnasium, as well as an auxiliary gym and locker rooms with individual showers.
Josh is the third child in his family to attend Garner High School. One of his sisters graduated two years ago and Elizabeth is on track to graduate in 2018.
But he said his sisters haven’t given him advice yet on how to navigate high school.
“What does he need advice on?” Elizabeth asked.
“How to be cool. How to be fresh,” Josh answered, wearing a white Nike hat and white T-shirt.
Josh said he wasn’t nervous about transitioning from middle school to high school. He said he was most looking forward to meeting new people.
“I like making friends,” he said. “I’m easy to talk to.”
Garner has historically been a one high school town. But in two years that will change. South Garner High was constructed to alleviate the overcrowding at the school system’s second highest populated school.
The new South Garner students will not move in until the 2018-19 school year.
Ninth grade students will continue their classes in the Ninth-Grade Center near Garner Magnet High.
The site, nearly 58 acres in size, has a football stadium, baseball and softball fields, a practice field, tennis courts and 843 parking spaces.
The school has four access points. Two driveways on Hebron Church Road, which runs along the long side of the roughly rectangular lot, lead into the car loop and to staff and visitor parking. A driveway on Clifford Road and another on New Bethel Church Road will each lead to the bus loop and on-site student parking.
The front of the school faces Hebron Church Road.
Nita Bussey and her son, Xavier Bussey, 16, a rising junior, were also touring the inside of the school for the first time Wednesday. Xavier said he was looking forward to getting good grades, meeting friends and new experiences.
His mom whispered and reminded him about going to college.
“Oh, that too,” Xavier said.
Nita Bussey said she was also pleased with the appearance of the school. Her only concern is the traffic flow.
“I think traffic is going to be terrible with the students and teachers coming in and the school buses,” she said. “Being on those two-lane highways, you know driving on those will be different than driving on Timber Drive. That’s the only thing I can see would be an issue. If they can get that under control I don’t see anything else being a problem.”