The new Gulf Shores High School took a big step Monday to coming into view.
Gulf Shores City Council approved a $131 million contract to construct the city school's new high school at their Feb. …
The new Gulf Shores High School took a big step Monday, as the Gulf Shores City Council approved a $131 million contract to construct the city school's new high school at their Feb. 5 work session meeting.
At the meeting, the contract was awarded to Rabren Construction, which will incorporate features including an array of collaborative learning spaces, including cutting-edge classrooms uniquely designed to be scaled to accommodate class sizes from 20 to 200.
Additionally, the new building, which will include accommodate students in grades 9-12, will feature hands-on learning and leading-edge technology in bio-medical, marine biology, engineering, culinary and finance labs, maker spaces, art, music production and broadcast studios.
There will also be a new state-of-the-art performing arts center and dedicated spaces for band, choral and drama students and a new athletic center for all sports including locker rooms for all varsity and junior varsity teams, two competition-size gymnasiums, tiered meeting rooms, athletic training rooms, coaches' office suites and an additional 18,000-square-foot field house complete with an athletic performance center planned to be connected to a covered 100-yard practice pavilion that will provide year-round training opportunities for all Dolphin athletes.
The school system became its own district in 2019 after separating from Baldwin County Public Schools and began collaborating with the city in January 2021 in preparation of the school system's need over the next 10 years as the city and student body continues to grow.
"The Next Wave project centered upon community involvement and the Gulf Shores City Board of Education's mission 'to provide engaging learning environments, rigorous academics and to incorporate unique resources of our community to empower all students to achieve success,'" the document stated. "The project team gathered detailed input from students, teachers, parents and the community at multiple points throughout the planning process. They also visited leading schools from Kansas City, Phoenix and the Southeast to learn best practices in designing collaborative learning environments that engage students more effectively and enhance their educational experience."
In addition to the new high school campus, the plan also includes recommendations to convert and renovate the existing elementary and middle school campus to accommodate grades Pre-K-5 and convert and renovate the existing high school campus to accommodate grades 6-8.
"When we started planning on building a school, we didn't start with what color the brick was going to be or how many windows it was going to have but what should learning look like and how can we support our students and teachers," Superintendent Matt Akin said. "This project is about much more than just building boxes to satisfy capacity. This new high school was designed with the needs of students and teachers at the forefront. It embraces collaboration and innovation and will facilitate a new way of learning that will increase engagement and outcomes in every aspect of our students' educational experience."
Mayor Robert Craft also spoke at Monday night's meeting, citing the reasons why he believes the new high school will not only benefit students but the city as a whole.
"We look at our world and city here as a family, and what is the most important asset of our families? Our children and their preparation for life is the most important, and we believe that up here. We heard loudly from the community coming in, demanding that we get better at education, and we are here," Craft said. "It has taken a long time to get here, but it has been one of our top goals, and I don't believe that there will ever be a more important project in the City of Gulf Shores than this one. I have lived here my whole life and watched this city, so I am proud that we can introduce something like this, and it will last forever."
According to documents, the costs associated with the construction of the new Gulf Shores High School have been budgeted in the City School Construction line from Truist loan 38-879-84900.
Timeline of events
Per an August 2022 Gulf Coast Media article, the project was first approved at a city council meeting that same month. Steve Griffin, who was city administrator at the time, said at the time the new high school has been a priority since the city created its own school system in 2019.
"The school, knowing that they're growing, had contracted and had a master plan done of what needed to be done for the next 10 years, and the two main highlights from that is a new high school that we're planning and working on at Coastal Gateway and Foley Beach Express," Griffin said.
The new high school is projected to open on a 200-acre site in the fall of 2025.