Most couples don’t spend the 23rd anniversary of their first date at a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the high school where they met. But James and Jamie Etzbach did.
The ceremony on Sunday, the day before Cobb County schools started classes earlier than ever, opened the first phase of the revamping of the 2,575-student Walton High School. School district officials said this stage of construction, which began in May 2015, cost $48 million and was funded by SPLOST IV, the special purpose local option sales tax.
The Walton where the Etzbaches fell in love was different from the 302,506-square-foot, 132-classroom wing they ogled over Sunday.
“This is our school, but it’s not,” she said as their two children – zoned to attend Lassiter when they reach high school age – played at a TV production desk.
The second phase, constructing the new performing arts center and athletic building, is set to be completed in early 2019, the district said.
Several county commissioners and school board members gathered to cut the ribbon out front along with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and newly elected U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, whose Sixth District includes part of East Cobb.
Isakson explained how he helped find the land for the first Walton High in the mid-1970s. The real estate businessman said he was out to lunch with county school officials at the time who were telling him how they had too many students and not enough seats.
“You’d better build two schools real quick,” he remembered telling them. And so Walton and Sprayberry high schools came to be. Isakson said the land to build Walton and neighboring Dodgen Middle School cost $4,500 back then.
He complimented the district on its progress.
“We have a pearl of beauty in this school, this school district,” Isakson said.
Jeannette Martinez, who moved to Cobb from Puerto Rico and spent a semester at the old Walton last year, said she thinks she’ll like spending 10th grade here.
The 15-year-old, who wants to be a make-up artist after she graduates, said the old building was hard to memorize.
“It looks more open,” she said pointing out to a patio with covered benches. “It’s a huge school compared to (schools in) Puerto Rico.”