NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The first day for Metro Nashville Public Schools began with a new era for students at James Lawson High School.

On Tuesday, 1,200 students started their first day of school as part of the James Lawson High School’s inaugural class. The state-of-the-art building, worth around $150 million, sits on 273 acres.

After nine years of planning, students finally filled the halls, gymnasium, theatre, and cafeteria overlooking the hills of Bellevue.

“This is a building like none other in Metro Schools,” said James Lawson Executive Principal Stephen Sheaffer. “The excitement has never been higher for our academic, our athletic, and our fine art programs.”

The school is named after Reverend James Lawson, a 1960s Nashville civil rights activist who was a mentor for college students advocating for the desegregation of public spaces downtown. Sheaffer said Lawson turns 95 next month and plans to visit the school this fall.

After 64 years spent in Hillwood High School, the administration said the James Lawson building brings very necessary upgrades.

Sheaffer said they’ll never forget their history, however, the students and staff look forward to welcoming the new chapter with open arms.

“This is a new day here in West Nashville in Bellevue,” said Sheaffer. “It’s really about starting a new chapter.” 

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The school’s seniors gathered outside James Lawson to watch the sunrise, celebrating their last first day of school early Tuesday morning.

“It’s extremely special,” said Pyper Yarbrough, a senior at James Lawson. “I feel like I’ve grown up with these people because I’ve just clicked with them so fast, so it’s really sad and I’m just glad we all get to share this moment together.”