A look back at the state’s largest high schools, part II

In the first part of looking back at attendance numbers of Georgia’s biggest high schools through the 1960s, it seemed like it was big cities who led the way with large student bodies.

Fast-forward a decade later and things were starting to rapidly change.

The Georgia High School began printing average daily attendance with region lists in its handbooks, starting with classification of 1978-79. Reclassification occurred every two years, which does not seem like much time for massive shifts, but in some cases, there were.

Ten years after printing the initial ADA lists, leaders were quite different. Most of the trends in 1988 are still present now.

1978-80 (Georgia High School Association handbooks)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,635)
  2. Forest Park (1,923)
  3. Warner Robins (1,679)
  4. Griffin (1,624)
  5. Jonesboro (1,578)

Note: The GHSA was likely only using 10th-12th grade data for ADA until 1998.

What a difference a decade makes.

The Bibb County reorganization of 1970 tossed together eight high schools: three all-female, three all-male and two coed and traditionally African-American. Before the reorganization, the largest high schools had been in the central part of Macon, Lanier and A.L. Miller. Southwest did not get these students in reorganization, but did receive the Willingham and McEvoy territory, combined with students from Ballard-Hudson.

Perhaps not shockingly, Southwest was a state powerhouse in boys basketball at this time. Under the legendary Don Richardson, the squad won six state titles over a 20-year span and in 1979, went 28-0.

Forest Park had been among the largest high schools in the state at the end of the 1960s. Atlanta’s sprawl contributed to its growth, as it did with Jonesboro, another Clayton County school. Warner Robins grew rapidly during the same decade.

Griffin began its run near the top of the heap for large high schools and would remain there until a second public high school, Spalding, was built.

1980-82 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,818)
  2. Parkview (2,101)
  3. Forest Park (1,833)
  4. Griffin (1,745)
  5. Walton (1,682)

For the first time, a Gwinnett County school appears on the list.

Parkview opened in 1976. Its growth was arrested in 1981 when Brookwood opened. This will not be the last appearance of a Gwinnett school.

Walton, from Cobb County, is the first top five school to come from there.

Atlanta was spreading out of the city and it was mostly spreading north.

1982-84 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,433)
  2. Griffin (1,899)
  3. Walton (1,874)
  4. Forest Park (1,662)
  5. Warner Robins (1,626)

No surprises and no one new. Brookwood opened as a fairly small school in 1981, estimated ADA of 555, but it was enough to pull at the base of Parkview students, which was now listed at 1,596. Parkview later dropped below 1,200 students on the GHSA lists in the mid-1990s. That, too, did not last.

1984-86 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,312)
  2. Griffin (1,842)
  3. Newton County (1,448)
  4. Warner Robins (1,425)
  5. Northside, Warner Robins (1,394)

Numbers dip for the next two classification cycles. The only metro Atlanta school on the list was Newton County, its sole appearance in the top five. Newton was the county’s lone public high school at this time, a status it entertained for another decade, until the opening of Eastside.

Northside had actually dropped from 1,600 students in the 1982-84.

1986-88 (GHSA)

  1. Southwest, Macon (2,092)
  2. Griffin (1,777)
  3. Lassiter (1,660)
  4. Walton (1,462)
  5. Evans (1,389)

This was Southwest’s final appearance as one of the state’s top five largest high schools. Macon’s now-defunct Southeast High joined the GHSA in 1988 with an initial ADA of 1,000 and obviously pulled at least some students from Southwest. In 1988, Southwest’s ADA was 1,040.

Evans made its sole appearance here and immediately saw numbers fall because of a new high school. Lakeside (Evans) opened in 1988 and nearly 900 students immediately entered its doors.

That actually made only a slight dent in Evans’ numbers, which were listed as being 909 in 1988.

Eighteen years earlier, Evans’ ADA had been 490 and as a school with grades 6-12, the entire student population was 918.

1988-90 (GHSA)

  1. Lassiter (2,390)
  2. Griffin (1,980)
  3. Walton (1,876)
  4. Dunwoody (1,843)
  5. Sprayberry (1,791)

Three schools are from Cobb County. A fourth is from Gwinnett.

Dunwoody’s numbers spiked with the addition of students from Peachtree High, which closed in 1988. In only one other reclassification period, 1998-99 (at 1,719) has Dunwoody come as close to having the this many students. By that point, the GHSA changed how it calculated average daily attendance and all schools had a significant increase. Dunwoody may be close to surpassing that number now, though, as currently it is listed as having 1,697 students.

Sprayberry was the second oldest high school on the list. It opened in 1952.

1990-92 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,907)
  2. Jonesboro (1,774)
  3. Redan (1,621)
  4. Lassiter (1,589)
  5. Sprayberry (1,588)

Lassiter’s drop in students (700 between classification cycles) has no clear explanation at the moment, other than the GHSA perhaps not measuring the impact of the opening of Pope High.

Pope opened in 1987 and then was given an estimated ADA of  1,125 in 1988-90. While Cobb did cut one high school (Campbell absorbed Wills in 1989), Pope and Harrison, which opened in 1991, were tasked with lessening the major overcrowding going on in the school system.

In 1990, Cobb had had 11 public high schools. Now, it has 16.

Similarly, the GHSA declined to estimate attendance at the new (1989) Mount Zion High in Clayton County, which possibly kept Jonesboro in the top five if MZ’s impact was not being considered. In 1992, Jonesboro had an ADA of 1,230.

1992-94 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,952)
  2. Brookwood (1,676)
  3. McEachern (1,671)
  4. North Cobb (1,577)
  5. Redan (1,476)

1994-96 (GHSA)

  1. Griffin (1,859)
  2. Brookwood (1,765)
  3. Lassiter (1,528)
  4. Redan (1,521)
  5. Walton (1,500)

This was Redan’s last appearance on the list. Redan’s numbers remained stabled until 2013-14 period (and currently at 1,025), but that, of course, couldn’t compare with the exponential growth in counties around DeKalb.

1996-98 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (1,792)
  2. Lassiter (1,711)
  3. Chattahoochee (1,709)
  4. Griffin (1,657)
  5. Walton (1,557)

Chattahoochee’s numbers swelled as north Fulton County’s did. Centennial relieved some pressure with a 1997 opening as did Northview in 2002. A third high school, Johns Creek, also opened in the old Chattahoochee attendance zone, doing so in 2009.

1998-00 (GHSA)

  1. Chattahoochee (2,760)
  2. Griffin (2,695)
  3. Harrison (2,566)
  4. Lassiter (2,536)
  5. Brookwood (2,465)

Griffin was knocked from its perch in 2000 when Spalding High opened with an estimate of 800 students.

2000-02 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (2,860)
  2. Harrison (2,806)
  3. McEachern (2,694)
  4. Lassiter (2,676)
  5. Brookwood (2,651)

And we have the first appearance of Collins Hill.

A Gwinnett school opened in 1994, it immediately had an attendance of 1,247 students. It grew. There was an ADA of 1,491 in 1996 and 2,247 in 1998.

Three schools on the list are Cobb County schools and two are from Gwinnett.

2002-04 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,484)
  2. Brookwood (2,908)
  3. Lassiter (2,802)
  4. McEachern (2,786)
  5. Chattahoochee (2,607)

In two years, Collins Hill has grown by 600 students.

Centennial, which cut into Chattahoochee’s attendance area, has 2,114 students in 2002.

2004-06 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (4,089)
  2. McEachern (3,115)
  3. Brookwood (3,000)
  4. North Gwinnett (2,748)
  5. Lowndes (2,682)

Collins Hill peaks in size on GHSA lists. Mill Creek opened that year with 2,200 students, but that did little to staunch the amount of students entering school in that section of the county. North Gwinnett, in an adjoining school district, also felt the impact of the surge.

With Cobb and Gwinnett trying to keep up with high school growth, Lowndes sneaks into the top five. The Lowndes Board of Education gave heavy consideration in 2007 to building a new high school north of Valdosta (with an estimated open year of 2010), but nothing came of it.

2006-08 (GHSA)

  1. Collins Hill (3,443.5)
  2. McEachern (3,432.5)
  3. Brookwood (3,130)
  4. Kennesaw Mountain (2,940)
  5. Camden County (2,678)

Kennesaw Mountain opened in 2000 with 2,000 students, helping to relieve some of the stress of northern Cobb schools. Hillgrove (opened 2006) and Allatoona (2008) have since opened in the area. Hillgrove took much stress off McEachern as well, which now operates at 1,000 students less.

Camden County remains the lone high school in Camden.

Moderately sized through the 1980s, its growth accelerated with Kings Bay’s naval submarine base, which estimated in 1992 that its impact would mean an additional 1,000 students in the school system over the course of a decade. There do not seem to be any reports of Camden perhaps splitting its high school, which has been located in all three of its major cities (Woodbine, St. Marys and Kingsland) over the course of its history.

2008-10 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,771.5)
  2. Collins Hill (3,643)
  3. Brookwood (3,409.5)
  4. Grayson (3,107.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,051)

Mill Creek opened in 2004 to relieve Collins Hill. Mountain View opened in 2009 to help relieve Mill Creek.

Lanier opened in 2010, Peachtree Ridge opened in 2003, Grayson in 2000 and Archer, on the east side of the county, opened in 2009.

All five of the top five were Gwinnett schools.

2010-12 (GHSA)

  1. Brookwood (3,433.5)
  2. Mill Creek (3,361 – projected)
  3. Collins Hill (3,335)
  4. Berkmar (3,208.5)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,152)

All five were again Gwinnett schools and the list has stayed that way. The projected figure for Mill Creek is because of Mountain View, which was projected to have 1,917 students.

2012-14 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (2,766)
  2. Norcross (2,709)
  3. Brookwood (2,560)
  4. Collins Hill (2,539)
  5. Berkmar (2,512)

Note: Looks like a momentary return to three-grade ADA.

2014-16 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,708)
  2. Norcross (3,649)
  3. Berkmar (3,376)
  4. Brookwood (3,372)
  5. Peachtree Ridge (3,204)

2016-18 (GHSA)

  1. Mill Creek (3,998)
  2. Norcross (3,753)
  3. Brookwood (3,476)
  4. Peachtree Ridge (3,201)
  5. Collins Hill (3,175)

Discovery High opened in 2015 and is currently listed with a 2,127 ADA. Gwinnett is planning to relieve high schools on the west side of the county even more.

A Gwinnett high school attendance zone map indicates that Paul Duke STEM High School will open in 2018 with another theme high school to open in the Meadowcreek area in 2019. A name has not been announced for the latter.

Gwinnett’s growth can be traced to the spread of Atlanta and a spread of students from both Atlanta/Fulton and DeKalb areas.

In 1960, the county school system had high schools at Central Gwinnett, Dacula, Duluth, Hooper-Renwick (African-American), Lilburn, North Gwinnett, South Gwinnett, West Gwinnett (which soon reverted back to the name of Norcross).

Lilburn gave ground to Berkmar in the middle of the decade and Hooper-Renwick integrated into other schools, but things began changing in the 1970s. Exponential growth, however, has only been in the past 20-25 years.

Advertisements

Consolidation, only slightly unchained

By the start of the 1950s, most school systems with rural schools realized that they had a very real problem with African-American schools.

Most were in one-room shacks.

The Georgia Department of Education, in its Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports in 1950 said that out of the state’s 2,310 black schools, 1,254 employed only one teacher. By contrast, there were only 135 one-teacher white schools.

Baldwin County was one of the systems with many such schools. There were 21 one-teacher schools in Baldwin in 1949-50 and 29 schools total, according to the Department of Education.

A school survey happened in Baldwin, likely during the first half of 1950. It recommended consolidation of small schools.

Baldwin had nine in a section of the county: Browns Crossing, Fishing Creek, Walker’s Grove, Antioch, New Mount Zion, St. Mary’s, St. Paul, Morgan’s Chapel and Vaughn’s Chapel. Enrollment at the nine totaled 340 students.

After some consideration, the Baldwin County school system decided upon a plan as to what to do with this school population.

They would move them into a hospital. A hospital that had until recently served as a Georgia State Prison hospital (and still was at the time the plan was unveiled).

Milledgeville’s Union-Recorder described the thinking behind this decision as such:

“The board of education believes that since the county has the hospital building under lease from the state for 16 more years and since the prisoners housed there will be moved by August 1, that savings can be made in the number of Negro teachers employed and that a better school program can be carried on.”

Three buses were added to the fleet to transport the students.

The prison was located just west of Milledgeville on GA 22 and actually in the Brown’s Crossing District. It is approximately where the Baldwin County Recreation Department is currently located.

Settling into its former prison digs, the school was named Northside.

Northside apparently remained in its former prison hospital building until c. 1967, when it moved to North Columbia Street.

Sources: Seventy-Eighth and Seventy-Ninth Annual Reports of the Department of Education to the General Assembly of the State of Georgia; July 13, 1950 Milledgeville Union-Recorder;  1950 State Highway Department Baldwin County map; Georgia Educational Directory 1966-67, 1967-68.