Northern High School approved to open Tuesday, after two delays

Akilah Davis Image
Friday, September 1, 2023
Northern High opening delayed until after Labor Day
Late Wednesday, Durham Public Schools (DPS) leaders announced that Northern High School won't open until after Labor Day.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- The opening of Northern High School had been delayed because there were several items that didn't pass inspection, according to Durham Public School officials.

Friday, Durham Public Schools announced the school will open after Labor Day as planned.

In a statement from DPS, school leaders said they've received the necessary credentials to welcome students for their first day of classes on Tuesday, September 5.

"Thank you to our partners in the city and the county and our DPS Operations department for their diligent work to ensure that our students and staff could occupy the building safely. A facility of this caliber deserves its due diligence, and we apologize for any inconvenience this delay may have caused. We can't wait to welcome our Northern Knights into its new state-of-the-art building on Tuesday, September 5!" said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, Superintendent. The school's auditorium and athletic fields are currently under inspection but are not needed to allow occupancy by students and staff. Work will continue on the project until the final requirements are met."

Classes will begin at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday for an estimated 1,300-plus students.

"We are so proud of the hard work that has been done to ensure that our new high school is safe and sound for our students and staff. The Knights will continue their legacy in this first new high school to be built in 30 years," Mubenga said. "It is now fully ready for teaching and learning."

The school told ABC11 Thursday, there were some construction items they had to address to pass inspection.

"There were several things that were not up to code," said Frederick Davis, Durham Public Schools executive director of building services.

The latches on the fire doors weren't working properly and the backflow preventer, a valve protecting the water supply from contamination, was too long.

"The height of the backflow from the concrete had to be a certain depth. That depth is 11 inches. When the inspector came out, it was 12 inches," said Davis.

ABC11 saw crews Thursday working to resolve both those issues.

"We want to make sure our T's are crossed and I's dotted so when we do open, students are safe," he said.

Northern High School is a $90 million project that has been years in the making. It's more than 200,000 square feet and has 82 classrooms as well as common areas.

"I mean, the kids are walking in going, wow! We did that, too, as teachers. We have been completely amazed," said teacher Lindsey Lester.

The new opening date is next Tuesday. The school district is confident all matters will be resolved by then. There has been no word on how or whether students will make up the days missed this week.

It was clear from Tuesday night's open house that the delays haven't overshadowed the excitement felt by staffers and students.

"I was ready to start. Then it's like now we have to wait and wait. It keeps getting pushed back. I'm just ready to start my senior year and get it over with," said one student.

The school district acknowledged and recognized the disappointment felt by some as crews continued working to prepare it for the first day of classes.

"We are asking for understanding and we're asking for grace," said Davis.