Anthony Newbold spun around in an egg-shaped swivel chair in a second-story corner of the $48.5 million STEM high school in southern Fulton County.

This is the principal’s favorite nook inside the just-opened Global Impact Academy.

Over one shoulder, he can see out a wall of windows to a grassy expanse ringed by trees that he’s eager to watch burst into fall colors. Over his other shoulder, shelves of books and more sleek furniture make the media center an inviting spot for students.

The Fairburn academy is one of two science, technology, engineering and math-focused high schools to open this week in Fulton County Schools. The larger Innovation Academy, built on land that once housed the old Milton High School on the district’s north end, cost $68 million.

Fulton’s two new flagship facilities are part of a push seen around metro Atlanta to invest in STEM education and career training. Atlanta, Cobb County and Gwinnett County school districts are among those to spend millions on state-of-the-art buildings in recent years.

“We want our students to identify some of the problems that are evident in the world and use STEM to help solve them,” said Newbold.

Students wait in line for lunch at Global Impact Academy in Fairburn on Monday, August 9, 2021.  (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Students will get a chance to do that in a modern space filled with natural light. They’ll learn in large labs equipped with hospital beds to practice patient care. Classrooms feature garage doors that slide up to allow students to move easily to hallway lounges with extra seating and TV screens.

The building feels like it could be on a college campus or like the headquarters of a start-up company, said Charisse Davis, a media and educational technology instructor.

“It just makes it a more mature space, I think, which is needed when we are asking these kids to do some mature thinking and work,” she said.

School officials call the gym, with a basketball court, treadmills and kettlebells, the “fitness center.” The cafeteria, with courtyard views and long counters, is “the commons.”

Walls are covered with pegboard, tiles and dark paneling. The school’s colors are black and gold, and splashes of yellow provide pops of color.

Exposed ductwork and wiring run the length of hallways, an industrial touch that gives students a glimpse of the building’s inner workings.

About 350 ninth and 10th graders are enrolled at Global Impact, which will expand over the coming years to serve all high school grades. The application window for next year will open again this fall. The students hail from more than a dozen middle schools, mostly on Fulton’s south side.

On Monday, the first day of school, social studies teacher Sherri Bouhi got to know her students by asking what they were most looking forward to learning.

“We have a few engineers. We have a few (in) health science,” she said. “(A) civil engineer — I like how you are specific with that.”

The school offers a number of career-related courses, ranging from cybersecurity and game design to healthcare sciences, engineering and energy systems.

Newbold, a former math teacher whose daughter attends the school, likes that the building offers so many places where students can work together. He thinks one of the most popular spots will be a second-floor room that juts out over the downstairs cafeteria. He calls it the treehouse.

“I like that whole collaboration piece because nobody works in silos anymore. So if we can teach kids how to do that now then they’ll be much further along,” he said.

By the numbers

Fulton County Schools opened two new STEM high schools this week.

Global Impact Academy

Address: 155 Shaw Dr., Fairburn

Cost: $48.5 million

Enrollment capacity: 900

Square feet: 147,387

Innovation Academy

Address: 125 Milton Ave., Alpharetta

Cost: $68 million

Enrollment capacity: 1,500

Square feet: 244,846