Students in Jasper can look forward to attending class in a shiny new school with the opening of Walker High School, the largest in the Jasper City Schools district and a showpiece for the entire city.
"It is a magnificent structure," says Jasper City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Jackson. "The school was drawn to mirror the original Walker High School building design with the large, beautiful columns and portico as well as the cupola and bell tower. These were important elements to the design and certainly makes the building even more special to the community."
The 285,000-square-foot, $53 million building is a replacement for the former high school structure. Walker High has an enrollment of approximately 850 students and is the only high school in the city school system.
Jackson says the new building features 61 modern classrooms, each with high-speed wireless and technology access; several fine arts and electives classrooms, including a yearbook publishing room, band room and choir room; and two separate gymnasiums for the school's award-winning wrestling, basketball, volleyball and dance teams.
"We'll also have a culinary arts program with state-of-the-art equipment as well as a health science program with a hospital simulation lab. We've updated the school's business tech and college and career readiness center, and the school's media center will be set up like an e-cafe and information center. The auditorium will be state-of-the-art. I hate to keep using that term, but I'm not sure what else conveys how advanced this building will be," Jackson says.
The 1,250-seat auditorium will even rival the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Jackson adds, and will be used for both school and community theater programs. In fact, the school system worked with Birmingham-based Lathan Associates Architects to ensure the school's design would include this and other features to enhance the quality of life for all residents.
"We will have two [emergency] shelters with a total capacity of 2,000 people, and we will open the storm shelter up for our community, too," Jackson says.
Formula for Success
The aesthetic improvements only amplify the quality education Walker High students receive. The school system implemented a one-to-one computing environment, pairing every student in the system with either a laptop or iPad. High school students also have free access to digital textbooks and online resources, such as Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus, Moodle, Edmodo and the Chalkable Classroom.
Walker High is also one of only 21 schools in the state to receive the Advanced Placement Grant, which enables the school to increase enrollment in AP and pre-AP courses. A partnership with Bevill State Community College allows students to earn college credit in several academic areas.
The district is proud of its commmitment to technology and for providing cutting-edge tools to its students, largely thanks to the district’s Excellence in Education fund.
All Walker High School students are issued their own personal laptops that can be used in the classroom as well as at home. Most of the textbooks at the high-school level are digital and downloaded to the laptops. Kindergarten students throughout the district have iPod Touch devices, which create a lot of excitement for the younger students and are used to reinforce content taught by their teachers.
In first through eighth grade, students have their own iPads, which are are used to support math, science, language arts and social studies instruction. The apps make learning more fun and engaging.