After a year-long study, the Atlanta Board of Education has decided to spend $56.2 million to buy land for a new North Atlanta High School at the 56-acre IBM site on Northside Parkway in the far northwest corner of Buckhead, according to news reports.

The first of two votes came at the board’s meeting Feb. 14 and enables the Atlanta Public School System to negotiate exclusively for that property which has housed an IBM complex. The board will take another vote to finalize the purchase of the site, APS officials indicated they anticipated no problems with the negotiations, according to televised reports.

Both APS staff and members of the Board of Education have repeatedly said over the past six months or more that they would not discuss sites being considered because it could jeopardize the negotiations. This vote indicates most of the negotiations would have already taken place.

School Board member Nancy Meister, who represents Buckhead on the board, forecast an announcement would be coming soon when she and board member Reuben McDaniel spoke at a meeting of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods Feb. 10.

“The announcement will have to come very soon,” Meister told the group, “because school Supt. Beverly Hall has indicated she wants shovels in the dirt before she leaves office June 30.”

In an email message to her District 4 constituents the day after the school board vote, Meister wrote: “This location is 3.6 miles north of the current North Atlanta High School, and offers so much from a land/opportunity perspective. The process has been very involved, many sites were considered, and I am quite pleased with the administration’s recommendation.”

Meister pointed out that a 56-acre property “will allow the district to stay ahead of the anticipated growth. The proposed location will allow for athletic facilities such as a football practice field, soccer field, softball field and baseball field. Long term, I would anticipate the property to allow the district to expand athletic facilities and other opportunities.”

She reported that the administration will be engaged in a “critical and aggressive due diligence process over the next few months. I look forward to ensuring that all stakeholder feedback is heard and input is addressed.”

When the new campus is built — a likely two-year-process – the present North Atlanta High campus on Northside Drive will be turned into a second Buckhead middle school, relieving an overcrowded Sutton Middle School on Powers Ferry Road near Chastain Park.

Hall has backed a plan to let kids stay together during their middle school years by using Sutton as a “sixth-grade academy” and sending seventh- and eighth-graders to a new middle school at  North Atlanta High’s campus.

Although system officials steadfastly declined to identify the sites they were considering for the new high school, a public outcry arose in October when it became known that the Paces Apartments complex in Buckhead Village might seized through eminent domain for the high school.

Nearby residents said the smaller Paces property, while more centrally located, couldn’t accommodate a comprehensive high school campus and complained the school would compound already heavy local traffic. The system dropped that site two months later, and public speculation centered on the IBM site.

John Schaffner

Below is a Google map of the IBM site, Sutton Middle, Current North Atlanta High School and the Pace Apartments site.
Click on the blue icon to identify each location.

View New North Atlanta High School Location in a larger map

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.