Gwinnett’s newest STEM high school opens for first day

By lunchtime at Paul Duke STEM Academy, students, teachers and staff were getting into a groove -- literally.

To ease some first-day jitters and build a sense of community, several faculty members started a line-dance during second lunch. As they kicked and showed off their moves, they invited students and anyone else nearby to join the “Cupid Shuffle.” (An AJC reporter even managed to get in a few steps.)

“That’s the kind of camaraderie we want to build throughout the year,” said Principal Jonathon Wetherington.

VIDEO: More on Paul Duke STEM high school

Paul Stem High School opened in Norcross Monday.

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With a theme of technology, the school will be the first in the district to have a four-day week on campus, with Fridays dedicated to digital learning. This aspect of the new school is to prepare students for college and professional environments where telecommuting and other forms of remote work are common place.

And another aspect that makes Paul Duke unique is that there are no athletic teams.

“It doesn’t make this school better or worse,” said Wetherington. “But it is different. We like that between Paul Duke and Norcross High students have a choice.”

The school feeds from students in Norcross cluster from feeder middle schools — Summerour and Pinckneyville.

And not only students got to choose between Norcross or Paul Duke. About a third of the staff at Paul Duke is from Norcross High, another third from throughout the district and another third is from outside the county -- some from other states.

Beckie Mae, a teacher at Paul Duke STEM High School, helps a student login to their computers in an AP computer science class during their first day at school on Monday, August 6. Jenna Eason / Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com

“We have a good mix for student success,” said Wetherington. “As we grow and modify things we’ll continue to get better.”

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