The David T. Howard Building, pictured here in a photo from 2015, closed in 1976. Atlanta Public Schools is spending $52 million to preserve and reopen the school. (Photo: BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM)
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

5 things to know about reopening Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood school

In Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, an old school is getting new life. 

Atlanta Public Schools is renovating and expanding the shuttered David T. Howard Building on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue. 

When crews complete the work next year, the building will reopen as Howard Middle School. 

Here are five things to know about the project

The Howard building is shown in 2015, before renovation work began. AJC file photo by BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

1. The school has a long history

The building holds an important spot in Atlanta’s history. It was constructed in the 1920s as an elementary school. The building’s namesake, David T. Howard, donated the property. Howard was a former slave, born in Crawford County, who became an undertaker. In addition to his successful mortuary business, Howard founded the city’s first black-owned bank. 

Martin Luther King Jr. listens to other staff members of SCLC during a meeting at an Atlanta restaurant. (Photo by © Flip Schulke/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2. MLK Jr. went to school there

Many of Atlanta’s most famous and influential citizens attended the Howard school. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birth home on Auburn Avenue is less than a half-mile away, went to the school from third through sixth grades, 1936 to 1940. 

In 1948, it became a high school. Other important residents who attended the school included Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor; NBA star Walt “Clyde” Frazier; and Olympic gold medalist high jumper Mildred McDaniel Singleton. 

The school closed in 1976. 

Renderings of the Howard Middle School project in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward. Renderings provided by lead architect Stevens & Wilkinson.
Photo: Stevens & Wilkinson

3. It will cost $52 million to reopen the school 

APS is spending $52 million to preserve, renovate and expand the school. Plans for the renovation include adding slightly more than 100,000 square feet of new space, doubling the current school size. The new construction will include an administrative wing, giving the building a more formal front entrance contemplated but never carried out in the original site plans. Builders also will add an auditorium, music rooms, classrooms, cafeteria and a bridge to connect the schools’ two wings. 

Architects are paying particular care to preserve the essence of the old school, melding its historic features with modern updates. 

The Howard renovation is one of more than a dozen school building projects funded through a voter-approved, one-cent sales tax

The David T. Howard school had been closed since 1976, and its interior was filled with peeling paint, plaster and debris before renovation work began. 2015 AJC file photo by BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

4. The school will help with APS overcrowding 

Once finished, Howard Middle School will be the new home for students who attend Inman Middle School. District officials have said Inman is overcrowded, and the revamped Howard site will accommodate several hundred more students in a fast-growing part of the district. The Inman building will be used for two years to house Morningside Elementary School, while that building undergoes its own renovation from 2020 to 2022. APS leaders have not decided what to do with the Inman campus in the long term. 

Renderings of the Howard Middle School project in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward. Renderings provided by lead architect Stevens & Wilkinson.
Photo: Stevens & Wilkinson

5. It will reopen next year 

Officials expect Howard Middle School to open in time for the beginning of the 2020 school year, serving students in grades six, seven and eight. The building will have an exhibit space dedicated to the school’s history.

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