Students and faculty members have had a month to soak it all in, but on Sunday evening it was the turn of alumni and dignitaries to behold the sprawling and impressive edifice that is the new Southwest High School.
As rain poured on the Williamson Road building, about 200 people gathered inside in the auditorium for the school’s official dedication ceremony.
“This is a day of joy for all of us,” said Bibb School Superintendent Sharon Patterson from the podium. She mentioned that the $34.8 million school was one of many projects accomplished with money raised through a sales tax approved by voters in 2005. She also mentioned that voters will soon have a chance to vote on an extension of the sales tax.
Bibb School Board President Tom Hudson took the podium next, leading the audience in a chant of “Let’s restore the Southwest pride!”
He was upstaged, however, by radio host Kenny Burgamy, a Southwest alum who was emceeing the ceremony.
“We used to do it, ‘Fire it up, Southwest, fire it up!’’’ Burgamy said to much laughter. “Because we weren’t Central.”
The new Southwest is a vast rectangle enclosing a courtyard with paved pathways, streetlights, grass, mulched beds of shrubbery and a solar panel.
The school has 200,000 square feet of space, labs for every science classroom, a courtroom, a crime lab, a 600-seat auditorium, a 1,200-seat gym and motion-detecting light switches.
The exterior is done up in red brick and cream-colored stucco with light-colored antiqued brick used for accents. The front entrance is marked with a decorative metal arch. In the center of the arch is a metal disc with a cut-out design of an oil lamp.
Gwen Simmons was the chair of the dedication committee. She has taught math at Southwest for 35 years and has three sons and 28 nieces and nephews who have graduated from Southwest.
Simmons said one of her favorite features of her new classroom is the “21st-Century Cart” that holds computer equipment and lets her present lessons through a projector.
“This is like being on another planet,” she said, comparing the new school to the old one.
Asked about his favorite thing about the new building, Southwest principal Tyrone Bacon said, “This is going to sound simple, but it’s the one roof.”
The old school included several buildings.
“For communicating with my staff, and the faculty and the students, this is huge,” he said.
Michael Ponder, a Southwest senior who was greeting visitors, said his favorite things about the new school are the courtyard and the cafeteria. “This building is oooh, fabulous,” he said. “There’s a positive attitude at school. We love it.”