After a series of delays caused by storms and problems during construction, Northern High School, originally scheduled to open on Aug. 28, finally opened its doors on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
At 8:23 a.m., almost an hour before the start of students’ first class, cars are already lined up in front of the south entrance and the student parking lot is nearly full. Students make their way through the glass-paned doors to a table stacked with school maps and the fall football schedule.
Northern High Treasurer Daniela Roggio, standing near the table, waves over entering students. “Is it your first day?,” she asks a freshman girl seeking help on where to find her class. “Welcome to Northern High School,” she says.
The new school building includes more than 80 newly constructed classrooms and common areas.
“I’m excited to meet the freshmen,” English teacher Anthony Atashi says. Though he’s not a fan of the new desks, he’s excited about all the technology. “And I’m happy to have A/C that works.”
The project took over two years, cost more than $90 million. The original Northern High School, located less than three miles up North Roxboro Street at 117 Tom Wilkinson Road, was built in 1953 and was spread over three sites and 39 acres.
The new Northern High, located at 4622 N. Roxboro St., stretches over 227 acres and was built to accommodate the 1,400 students enrolled for the year. Principal Danny Gilfort said the teachers “have access to things now that they wished they had before: science labs that are stocked and ready to go, appropriate seating, interactive boards that create learning stations for their kids.” The new design and the increased space allows teachers to craft more individualized learning plans, he said.
Principal Gilfort is particularly excited about the media center, the 1400-seat gym, the state of the art auditorium that “doesn’t have wood seats from the 50s,” and the school’s commercial kitchens and bakery.
The culinary arts program,, has catered for various Durham events and earned over 150 awards in the past four years. The new Northern High building has two commercial kitchens, a baking lab and a café for students to sell their blueberry muffins and cinnamon rolls to fellow students in the mornings before classes. The culinary team hopes to launch a new coffee training program so students can “work on more advanced barista skills like calibrating grind and latte art,” says Chef Peter Brodsky, who teaches culinary arts at Northern.
At 8:55 a.m. buses wait in line on the north side of the building as cars continue to flood the south entrance. “Stay in line, stay in line,” the security guards say to the line of cars as restless drivers try to pass each other.
Other students pour through the north and south entrances, while inside the school, students make their way up the staircase that overlooks the atrium, heads down as they study their school maps.
At 9:07 a.m., a few stragglers trickle in carrying the Bojangles trays that they sacrificed their punctuality for.
In the second floor hallway, two male students in search of their classroom stop to examine a map. One turns to the other and laughs, “I’m gonna get lost the first day.”
Above: Northern High Principal Danny Gilfort walks the halls on the new school’s opening day. Photo by Maddie Wray — The 9th Street Journal