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School Board in Georgia Approves $179M Contract to Build New Cherokee High

Wed May 31, 2023 - Southeast Edition #12
Cherokee County School District

Rendering of the new replacement Cherokee High School scheduled to open in August 2026. (Cherokee County School District rendering)
Rendering of the new replacement Cherokee High School scheduled to open in August 2026. (Cherokee County School District rendering)

Students at Canton, Ga.'s Cherokee High School are closer to having a new school campus, projected to open in 2026.

The Cherokee County School Board (CCSD) on May 18 unanimously approved a $179 million contract with Carroll Daniel Construction, a Gainesville, Ga., firm, to erect a new building for the school.

The contract is the largest CCSD has ever awarded for a high school, but the cost per square foot is in line with market rates for school construction, the district said.

Rising costs for materials and labor, coupled with the school's size, led to a higher-than-expected price tag, according to CCSD. After a cost analysis by the CCSD staff, Superintendent of Schools Brian V. Hightower recommended that the district not delay the project because prices are likely to continue rising.

The new campus, expected to open in August 2026, will include 473,761 sq. ft. of space. The building is designed for 3,000 students; the current enrollment at Cherokee High is about 2,800.

CCSD noted that there are no plans to change the attendance boundary lines for the school — the entire enrollment will move to the new school when it opens.

The new building also will feature 152 classrooms, a 1,000-seat auditorium and a 4,500-seat football stadium.

"I'm so impressed by the design and the state-of-the-art labs," said Cherokee County School Board Member Susan Padgett-Harrison, a former principal at the high school. "When I see how beautiful the front of that school is [going to be], I'm excited to vote for it tonight."

Time to Replace 67-Year-Old High School

Most of the construction's cost will be funded with Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (Ed-SPLOST) revenue and associated bonding. In addition, CCSD will receive $31 million from the state of Georgia to help pay for the new school.

This will be the first time CCSD will fund construction through Ed-SPLOST, as the entire cost for replacing the county's Free Home Elementary School, now under construction, was covered with funds already in hand, according to the school district.

Site preparation for the new Cherokee High, which was approved through a separate contract, currently is under way in the Riverstone Plaza shopping district and adjacent to Teasley Middle School.

The current high school is the district's oldest facility, with the core buildings on the campus opening in 1956. There have been numerous additions and renovations over the years, including more than $16 million in investments since 2002, CCSD noted.

School Board Member Patsy Jordan, who could not attend the May 18 meeting due to a prior commitment, passed on her remarks to Kyla Cromer, the board's chair, to be shared during the session.

A Cherokee High School graduate herself, Jordan said she knows how long the community has waited for this day to come.

"I'm looking forward to many generations of Cherokee High School students being educated in this new state-of-the-art school," she elaborated, noting she also is anxious to see the current campus be repurposed for other educational purposes.

Hightower said he supports the immediate return of Canton Elementary School upon the new campus's completion. In 2018, that school was absorbed into the current Cherokee High campus to relieve overcrowding.

Once vacated, the old high school building also could potentially house additional preschool classes and assessment services, he explained. Additionally, the main campus could be the expanded home for CCSD school choice programs, such as the Cherokee College and Career Academy, as well as a possible second location for the evening high school program provided by Mountain Education Charter High School, a CCSD partner.

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