Origin Story: The Path from Northside to North Atlanta High School


A Transformation to Modernity: Throughout the years, North Atlanta has undergone a fascinating transformation. And this new wave of technology has made the North Atlanta of old nearly unrecognizable.

Approximately 2,220 teenagers walk through the doors into the mighty eleven stories every morning, ready for the reality of a day at North Atlanta High School. Although we as students are constantly weary of the monotony of our days, the reality that we live is not the same reality of Warrior students of the past. Our school has changed in size, location, and overall student atmosphere, and the current institution bears an almost striking dissimilarity to past institutional realities. 

The story of North Atlanta begins with a very different school than the one we now recognize as home – specifically Northside High School. Created in 1950 and located at the current Sutton Middle School campus on Northside Drive, Northside High School was the home of the Tigers. The school officially evolved into North Atlanta in 1991, when North Fulton High School merged with Northside. The merger resulted in North Atlanta becoming the first APS high school to host two magnet programs – the International Studies Program and the Performance Arts – and a student body highly encouraged and focused on the arts. Fine arts instructor and orchestra director Stephen Lawrence, a North Atlanta graduate from the Class of 2003, is one who has seen considerable changes in his school since his high school days. “The community of students was definitely a lot different than compared to now because everyone’s interests were much more based in the arts,” he said.  

But changes were afoot for North Atlanta with the elimination of the fine arts magnet track with the arrival of the 2011-12 school year. From that point forward, North Atlanta became a more standard public high school, one that promotes the normative range of academic fields. 

Beyond any particular program emphasis that defined North, in its more contemporary chapters the school’s defining characteristic has been student body growth. By 2009, it was clear to APS that the student population was growing much too large for the Northside Drive campus. Decision making and construction began and by the 2013-2014 school year, an 11-story IBM building was transformed into the current school that we all know and love today, one that contains thousands of students and features impressive panoramic views of the city, not to mention a tranquil retention pond. 

With the construction of a bigger – much bigger – building, growth has dramatically followed. During the 2013-14 school year, the first year in the new 11-story North Atlanta building, the school population was around 1,400. Today, the school has gained nearly a thousand students and stands by far and away the largest high school within the APS community. A bigger building, a bigger population, a bigger course selection. With growth comes change, and in the case of the student body, bigger has proven to be better. The teenage years are a time of change and personal growth, and friendships are of utmost importance. The size and diversity of the North Atlanta community allows for just that. “Everyone can find their people here,” said sophomore Grace Nyberg. “That’s what I love most about going to a public high school.” 

With 70 years of change inside the school, outside changes have had just as much of an effect. Technology has rapidly increased and developed and the impact on learning is clear. Smart boards, zoom calls, and student computers make learning easier to access and alter the classroom environments. With textbooks replaced by Google Classroom and grading books replaced by Infinite Campus, learning is a click away. Assistant Principal Jill Stewart, who started at North Atlanta in the old campus, is one of the most veteran staff members in the building, having started during the 1999-2000 school year. Stewart said that the nature of teaching has radically changed during her turn-of-the-century beginnings at the school. “It’s so much easier to input grades and calculate averages,” said Stewart. “Technology has really enhanced instruction.” 

North Atlanta has gone through waves of change, and will continue to do so. From a Performing Arts magnet school, to a virtual school in the times of a global pandemic, the North Atlanta population has always been forward thinking. Being a Warrior, it would seem, means adopting and embracing unending change.