By Jody Steinberg
With little fanfare and well-hidden behind safety fences, the first phase of the long-awaited renovation is well under way at Cross Keys High School.
Built in the 1950s, Cross Keys is one of the oldest and most decrepit campuses in DeKalb County. In spite of being scheduled for renovation under the Capital Improvement Plan for years, the school kept getting bumped down the “to do” list at the school system’s operations department.
Numerous meetings with school officials resulted in little more than promises and bad starts, in the minds of renovation supporters. The first architect left the job under dubious circumstances, while the heating and air conditioning contractor had half the old system pulled out and was preparing to install the new one when it walked off the job.
In recent years, proponents for the school called for action and transparency. Chief Operations Officer Pat Pope, who was recently relieved of her duties, blamed the delays on contractor problems and permit delays. In early November, Interim COO Barbara Colman, architects from Richard Wittschiebe Hand and construction contractors from Evergreen met with the CKHS community and promised that work would begin that month. And it did.
This year, Cross Keys merged with DeKalb High School Technology North, bringing more Career Tech programs, which require oversized classrooms. Three quad-wide trailer classrooms are used for the courses, but when Phase I is finished and the school’s fourth wing has been expanded, tech students will have state-of-the-art classrooms and equipment. The school board approved a technology upgrade package for the school Jan. 11.
Meanwhile, students are just excited to see the activity. Cross Keys principal, Dr. LeShawn McMillian, says the project is on track with the schedule announced in early November – a schedule that promised the new tech classrooms before the year is over.
“A great deal of progress has been made on fourth hall,” according to McMillian. “The entire wing is gutted out and there are a number of different contractors on site.”
It will take months for the first phase of the project to be completed. But the fact that construction crews and contractors are actually on the campus, at work, has spurred hope among the cynics.