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A new Atlanta-area STEM magnet school will feature a flexible modular design

The design firm Cooper Carry combined three of its practice studios to collaborate on this project.

December 05, 2019 |

The Innovation Academy in Alpharetta, Ga., will be set up to prepare high school students to become leaders in a knowledge economy. Images: Cooper Carry

Fulton County Schools in Georgia teamed with Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (which provided curriculum support) and several other partners to develop Innovation Academy, the school district’s latest magnet school.

The 245,000-sf, three-level school—whose construction began in July 2018 and whose ceremonial groundbreaking occurred last Nov. 22—will be located in downtown Alpharetta, Ga., on property that previously housed the old Milton High School. It will open initially to accommodate ninth and 10th graders, but ultimately will serve between 1,500 and 1,600 students in grades nine through 12.

To support the workforce needs of the North Fulton community, the school’s curriculum will focus on Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences, with an emphasis on design thinking and preparing students for a “knowledge economy.” Learning will be demonstrated through projects, portfolios, certifications, business mentorships as well as student created applications and products.

Innovation Academy will take academic concepts and teach them through real-world experiences and hands-on problem solving. Students will work in teams with support from a robust advisory program, with the goal of cultivating the students to become future leaders who can help solve the community’s challenges.

Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry brought together its K-12, Higher Education, and Science & Technology studios to collaborate on the design of Innovation Academy, which is centered around a three-story atrium dubbed Touchdown Commons that runs through the building’s spine and will serve as the school’s cafeteria and media center.

This multifunctional space will be outfitted with moveable seating and accessible technology to create an environment suitable for everything from eating lunch to robotics practice. The communal area is designed to connect with an outdoor courtyard and makerspace that’s visible through windows that allow for natural light to come into the classrooms.

Inside, the school’s corridor walls will be manufactured from a combination of glass windows and garage doors to promote transparency. Interior dividers will be made from stud walls. The school’s rooms will be constructed using a planning module with multiples of the same 11-ft wide by 30-ft deep configuration, to allow for user flexibility.

The building’s exterior brick and columns are designed to match the look of Alpharetta City Center, a 26-acre mixed use property that expanded the city’s downtown by six blocks and includes the Cooper Carry-designed Alpharetta City Library, which opened five years ago.

The three-story atrium in Innovation Academy, known as Touchdown Commons, will be a multifunctional space that connects to an outdoor courtyard. 


The design plans for Innovation Academy were informed by public outreach sessions with the school’s faculty and local community members.

Cooper Carry is also working with Fulton County Schools to develop a sister STEM school in Fairburn, Ga., which could open during the 2021-22 school year.

Jacobs is the project manager and Barton Malow the GC on Innovation Academy, which is scheduled to open in August 2021, a year later than originally planned.

Superintendent Mike Looney told the Atlanta Journal Constitution last June that his staff needed more time to prepare before the school opened. “I want to ensure that there is a comprehensive educational structure in place before we recruit and place students in this program,” he stated. “If we want students to join a new effort like this, they and their parents deserve a comprehensive and detailed picture of what they will learn as part [of] this experience and how that experience will prepare them for college and a career.”

Indeed, next year Innovation Academy will be used as a hub for teacher and staff training.

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