GRANT PARK — As Maynard Jackson High School nears its December 2013 completion date for its $45 million overhaul, school officials invited East Atlanta Patch to come in for an exclusive look at what what's been done so far.
The renovations at Jackson, among the last of Atlanta Public Schools' secondary institutions to get an overhaul, come amid several changes affecting it.
Stephanie S. Johnson was named principal Nov. 1 and has received high marks from parents, so far.
And after years of what appeared to be lukewarm relations with its feeder neighborhoods, Jackson leaders also have been making more efforts at outreach to those communities, which, besides Grant Park, include East Atlanta, Ormewood Park, Cabbagetown and Summerhill, among others.
APS Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. has promised that the district will give focused attention at raising academic standards and expectations at Jackson, which lags student achievement statewide.
Jackson High School has "tremendous potential" to be a top-ranked school, he said at a July 2012 meeting of Jackson schools cluster parents.
The school also is in the final stretch of its application for International Baccalaureate status.
The IB program, based on rigorous international learning standards, is academically challenging and highly coveted by the high and middle schools that seek acceptance into it.
District 1's Atlanta Board of Education representative, Brenda J. Muhammad, hosted the March 14 event, which also included visitors representing the South Atlantans for Neighborhood Development, the Grant Park community and the office of District 1 Councilwoman Carla Smith.
My first impression was one of envy. I am sure that the students will love how much open space and the number of natural light spaces that the new school will have. In the center of the main school building will be a courtyard with trees and places for students to study.
On one side of the building, it seems like it will be entirely made of glass, giving an unobstructed view of the new tennis courts, football fields and open green spaces that will be added.
Pretty much everything is being built from the ground up for Jackson students. The old gym will be torn down and rebuilt, there is a state-of-the-art theater and media center getting placed in the school.
Additionally, the design calls for a rooftop garden for students and faculty.
One feature Muhammad requested was that a very small room or area be turned into a museum as tribute to Jackson, the former Atlanta Mayor. Muhammad, who also has a son attending Jackson High, said it's "important for these children to know who their school is named after.
"Hopefully if they know who the school is named after they will think twice about acting up."
Muhammad said she wants to add more upcoming tours for local community members so they can see what's happening first hand. Muhammad's office if you want to be added to upcoming tours.