New high schools finished in time for Decatur students to return to school

DECATUR, Ala. - Thousands of kids in Decatur will head back to school on Wednesday morning. School leaders are cheering because the two new high schools were finished just in time.

Deona Turner is getting her classroom prepared. "Lots of unpacking." It's a familiar ritual for Turner, who's taught Spanish at Austin for over 20 years. But this time, she's in a brand new building.

"Whenever you go into a new space, you have to reorient yourself," Turner said.

The new $51 million Austin High School is finished. Students are moving three miles down the road from the old high school.

Around a thousand Austin High students are expected back for the year. Built three miles away from the old school, the new school along Modaus Road cost over $50 million. But, the district met its deadline, which was met with hearty applause at this week's school board meeting.

"I don't know that anybody else in the state has ever opened up two high schools in the same year," Decatur City Schools superintendent Michael Douglas said.

It's a shorter trip for teachers and kids at Decatur High School on Somerville Road.

"We didn't get the building officially until last Tuesday," Decatur High School principal Johnny Berry said.

Workers tore down part of the old high school to make room for the new $41 million space.

"I think everybody's eyes are going to be a little bit bigger in the morning," Berry said. "As soon as that bell rings, our kids are going to go to class and our teachers are going to go to work."

Berry expects a little over 900 kids at Decatur High School this fall.

Both Austin and Decatur high school can also be used as tornado shelters. The two schools will play each other in football three Fridays from now on Austin's brand new field, which workers have spent weeks trying to finish in time.