Topping out ceremony marks milestone in construction of new Howard Middle School facility

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarpehn with Howard High Alumni. (Photo by Bill Goodman, Atlanta Public Schools)

Amidst cheers and tears, alumni of the former David T. Howard High School joined with future students of the nearly refurbished middle school to celebrate a construction milestone at the Old Fourth Ward school campus today, Aug. 23.

“This means a lot to us as alumni. This is a day we’ve been waiting for,” David T. Howard High School Alumni Association President, Gloria B. Williams said.

Future and alumni Howard school students sign beam at topping off ceremony. (Photo by Clare S. Richie)

The $52 million renovation and expansion will put students back into Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater more than four decades after it closed.

“It’s going to be amazing,” a Hope-Hill Elementary School fifth grader said. She will attend Howard Middle School along with her Grady Cluster sixth-to-eighth grade peers in August 2020.

The topping off ceremony commemorates the placement of the highest beam of the building. All attendees, such as, alumni, Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, school board members, city council members and construction workers, were invited to sign the beam.

“I cannot believe this is happening. I remember standing in the soccer field four years ago with the alumni. The school was dilapidated and closed-up. I knew it was perfect.” Carstarphen said.

Thanks to the alumni, Grady Cluster, school board, taxpayers and many more – the historic school will be brought back.

Howard High produced prominent graduates, including Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson; NBA star and basketball hall of famer, Walt “Clyde” Frazier; and the only U.S. woman to win gold in the 1956 Olympics, high jumper, Mildred McDaniel Singleton.

“I’m honored next year to be the Howard Middle School principal,” Current Inman Middle School Principal Maxwell said.

He praised the Parrish Construction Group workers for their skills.

Dr. Maxwell and future 7th and 8th grade students. (Photo by Clare S. Richie)

“It was the same kind of skill and hard work that allowed David T. Howard, a man born into slavery, to donate the land on which this school stands. It seemed this gift of land to educate children was destined to continue making history,” Maxwell said.

He concluded with another inspirational story.

“The front of this building was supposed to be built 70 years ago and although it was designed by architects, it didn’t’ happen because of the realities of racism. You, with your skill and commitment are righting that wrong for the benefit of an incredibly diverse student body who’ll reap the benefits of sacrifice of the past and innovation in the present.”

On a hot sunny afternoon, attendees’ spirits were lifted with that last beam.

“We’ve done a great thing for our city – to honor our legacy and our future,” Carstarphen said.

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