Howard High School at last gets its dedication ceremony

It was a long time coming, but Howard High School finally got its dedication ceremony Sunday.

The $28 million building, located on Forsyth Road in north Bibb County, actually opened its doors to students in August 2008. Officials said they waited until all construction was done before they planned the dedication. The last part of the school to be completed was its stand-alone auditorium building, which was finished in the spring. The timing also had to do with the fact that Howard didn’t have a senior class until this year.

“It seemed only fitting that we celebrate our first senior class and our building all at once,” said Howard principal Karen Yarbrough.

The dedication program took place in the school’s new auditorium. About 100 people attended, including Bibb County school board members and representatives of the architects and contractors who built the school.

Yarbrough bragged about the school, pointing out that it had the school system’s best passing rates on high school graduation tests: 92 percent for the English test and 90 percent for the math, science and social studies tests.

Later, she talked about her school’s dress code, which is stricter than those of the other Bibb high schools.

“Research shows that it increases academic achievement and improves student discipline,” she said. “The focus is not on what they’re wearing, but on the students themselves.”

Howard is the result of a long grass-roots campaign to build a high school in the fast-growing northern part of Bibb County. Brenda Stokes, director of construction for Bibb schools, told the audience Sunday that it wasn’t long after she took her current position that a real estate agent accosted her and told her, “You’ve got to build a school in the Howard community.”

The school system took the first steps toward this goal in 1998, when it bought a Christmas-tree farm on Forsyth Road. A sales tax initiative approved by voters in 1999 promised to provide the funds to build a combined middle and high school complex on the Forsyth Road site as well as a nearly identical complex in south Bibb County.

The southern complex opened in 2003 as Rutland Middle and Rutland High, but progress on the northern complex was slower. Howard Middle School opened in 2004, but funds for the high school ran out. It took another sales tax initiative, passed in 2004, to complete the project.

“Many of you have supported this initiative for a long time and the dream has been realized,” Bibb Superintendent Sharon Patterson told the audience. She also asked for support for another sales tax initiative, coming up on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Garrett Knighton, a senior at Howard, played violin in the school chamber orchestra during the dedication program. He said that before he came to Howard last year he was at Westside High, which was overcrowded.

He said Howard is a big improvement.

“It’s smaller, so you get to know the teachers better,” Knighton said. “You get more focused attention here.”