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Gwinnett County Public Schools

Norcross High School

Norcross High School

Fast Facts


Norcross High School opened a beautiful 440,000 square foot facility at 5300 Spalding Drive in August of 2001. This land was purchased for the school by the Gwinnett County public school system after a devastating tornado in 1990 cleared the land of hundreds of trees. The new building opened with a student population of 2,400 students who live in the attendance area bordered by Peachtree Corners on the west and Beaver Ruin and I-85 on the east.

Norcross High School began offering the prestigious International Baccalaureate program in 1999 and this highly rigorous curriculum now serves over one-third of the student population. Norcross High School has a rich and long history dating back to 1827. Extremely successful alumni, including Norcross Mayor Lillian Webb, are the pride of the school.

Before moving to its new location on Spalding Drive, Norcross High was located at 600 Beaver Ruin Road. That facility opened in 1957. At that time, the school was called West Gwinnett High School. In 1962, the name was changed back to Norcross High School. Norcross was named after Johnathan Norcross, a friend of the founder of the town, John Thrasher.

One of the earliest schools in the area that would become Norcross was the Washington Academy, incorporated by the state legislature in 1827 with Charles Gates, William Green, David Burge, Samuel Maloney, Henry Dunn, John Baker and Thomas Morgan as trustees. Located near the Chattahoochee River at the present site of Shiloh Baptist Church, Washington Academy was patronized by the wealthy farmers who lived along the river, according to James Flanigan in History of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Volume I. Records show that in 1836, Washington Academy received $260.56 from the state and had an attendance of 72 males and 31 females.

Another early form of schooling was provided by ‘contracts.’ George Hopkins was an educator who ‘contracted’ with area parents to provide classes in available sites, such as churches, meeting houses or even homes. Since the county was still young, school buildings were few, explained Lucille Baldwin, great-granddaughter of Hopkins. ‘The older students were called scholars, while the younger children were referred to as half-scholars,’ added Mrs. Baldwin.

In July of 1830, Hopkins signed an agreement to educate the children of the following pioneer citizens: John Mathis, Jesse Dickerson, John Dickerson, John Lietch, William Wardlow, Lazarus Jones, Nora Collins, Jemison Ware, Francis Hopkins, John Stell, Robert Stell, Henry Mathis, Amos Kelley, Joseph F. Comer, George Hopkins, Curtis Corley, John Nash, Joshua Durham, William Armstrong, Nancy Burns and Larkin Brown, according to History of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Volume I.

Just about the time that Norcross was being organized, free schools were created by the Georgia General Assembly in 1870. However, schools were suspended during 1872, because no funds were available. The public school system began to function again in 1873.

Soon after the 1870 founding of Norcross, a twostory school house with eight rooms was erected in the town, and Professor James Vincent was the principal. At the closing exercises in May of 1873, it was revealed that two flourishing literary societies were doing well and the enrollment had gone beyond 100. Performing at the closing exercises were Alice Harrell of Cumming, Nora Strickland of Duluth and Ellen Thrasher and Helen Jones of Norcross. In August of that year, Professor Vincent printed an advertisement for Norcross High School, revealing that the tuition ranged from $1.50 to $3 per month. Board, exclusive of washing, was $10 a month.

Old Norcross High School building

“We believe in the co-education of the sexes,” proclaimed Professor Vincent in 1873. “We limit their association. They meet only in the recitation room except in passing to and from the Academy and during the suspension of regulations pertaining thereto. Their association to this extent makes them more attentive to personal appearance and more refined in speech.”

The next year, Professor Vincent sold the school to Professor Norman Favius Cooledge, a native of Vermont said by many to be a relative of President Calvin Coolidge (despite the different spellings of their last names). The Cooledge Academy was reportedly attended by many boys and girls of the Norcross area and even some from out of state. Cooledge was a highly respected member of the community and lived in Norcross until his death at the age of 72. He was also one of the leaders in the organization of the First Baptist Church of Norcross and served as the first Sunday school superintendent.

Terrell Simmons, member of a pioneer Gwinnett family, opened the Georgia School of Languages, Science and Art in Norcross in 1883. Simmons had just graduated from Emory College and later became a successful businessman, according to Flanigan’s History of Gwinnett County, Georgia, Volume II.

W.H. Baker was in charge of a teachers’ training institute in Norcross in 1883, but he complained in a letter to G.J. Baker, state superintendent, that attendance was low because school was still in session. The usual salary for first-grade teachers in the late 1890s was about $38 monthly, while upper-grade teachers received only $23.

The Norcross City Council decided in 1898 to elect a board of education and the duties would be ‘to secure the service of competent and well-qualified teachers, to settle all differences that may arise in the schools and to look after all school projects and see that it is well cared for by teachers and report it to the mayor and council.’

Bonds were issued for a new modern brick school building in 1903, and another bond issue approved an additional school in 1914. These buildings stood side by side on College Street for many years in the center of Norcross and were preceded by an old wooden building at the same site, say many long-time Norcross residents. Before this older wooden school was destroyed, it became very unsteady, former students recall.

After the second red-brick building was constructed as a grammar school, the first building became Norcross High School. Many persons who grew up in Norcross and attended these schools have not forgotten the school-day memories collected there, referring fondly to the ‘castle on the hill.’ Both of the brick schools were demolished several years ago, although the first building was in use until 1970.

According to a booklet compiled in 1923 and reprinted recently, the rural schools surrounding Norcross were Beaver Ruin with 60 students, Glover with 172, Mechanicsville with 87 and Pittman with 60. Crabapple School, which was located at Pinckneyville, had apparently closed earlier.

In 1933, a report printed in Flanigan’s History, Volume I, stated, “Norcross has three buildings valued at $60,000, and used 13 teachers. For many years this has been one of the best schools in the county and is accredited first class.” A school for black children was located near Hopewell Baptist Church at that time, according to Clara Nesbit.

Norcross Elementary School was built in 1939, and the Board of Trustees of the Norcross Consolidated School System listed on the corner stone were H.L. Sudderth, J. Howard Webb, B.F. Summerour, B.W. Westbrook and C.A. Garner. This school is still in use, although many additions have been built through the years. With the completion of the new elementary school, the two older buildings ‘on the hill’ became Norcross High School.

When West Gwinnett High School was built in 1957, parents of Duluth students objected to consolidation and fought successfully to have a new high school built in Duluth. The citizens of Norcross later asked to have the name West Gwinnett changed back to Norcross High School.

The school colors— blue, silver, and white— and the school mascot— the blue devil— were chosen by the students in 1957 when football was played as a school sport for the first time. Speaking of football, Norcross High School has a very successful athletic program that has garnered state championships in a number of sports including Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Football, OneAct Play, and Boys Golf.

Norcross High has a long history of producing successful students. This is due in large part to the school’s focus on teaching and learning and its work to engage all students. This focus is found throughout the school from its International Baccalaureate program to its extracurricular activities. As the top International Baccalaureate school in the state of Georgia, Norcross High School aims to provide a world-class education for all its students, balancing rigorous academics with excellence in athletics and fine arts, ultimately leading students to their highest level of success after graduation. However, the IB program is just one offering for Norcross students. Students also benefit from the Junior Achievement (JA) Academy at Norcross which provides students with real-world experience through visits to community businesses, job shadowing, mentoring, networking with community leaders, tackling business challenges through case studies, and more! In addition, students at Norcross have the opportunity to take a wide range of Advanced Placement courses.

Norcross High and schools in the Norcross Cluster are fortunate to have a very supportive community. In 2001, some forward thinking constituents at Norcross High School began a Foundation for Excellence to provide financial assistance for the education of future generations of Norcross students. The Norcross High School Foundation for Excellence began with a generous gift from Paul Duke, developer of Technology Park in Norcross, GA. Since its inception, the Foundation has received donations from hundreds of families, businesses and community supporters to help fund programs and structures, including:

  • After School Matters Tutoring Program
  • Matrix sign at front of school that greets all school visitors
  • Contributions to assist in funding the Duke House
  • Blue Devil Plaza
  • Classroom grants that impact our students and teachers
  • Pavilion located by tennis courts providing shade and water
  • Computer carts containing wireless laptops
  • Trophy case in foyer
  • Teacher scholarships for continuing education
  • State of the Art sound system for the Theater
  • Media Center Renovation
  • Signage throughout the school

Serving nearly 3,600 students in 2017, Norcross High School serves as the anchor for the Norcross Cluster. Its feeder schools are Pinckneyville and Summerour middle schools and Baldwin, Beaver Ridge, Norcross, Peachtree, Simpson, and Stripling elementary schools. In 2018, the school will receive much-needed relief as Gwinnett County Public Schools opens the Duke STEM High School in the Norcross Cluster. Things are always changing in Norcross as progress and growth continue. However, the commitment of Norcross High School to the children of this community has stood the test of time— engaging students in higher level learning and preparing students for success in college, work, and life in the 21st century.