Less than 400 students attended the school at that time, and the 100,000-square-foot facility was built to accommodate approximately 600.
Yet enrollment at CHS has increased steadily for years, from 355 in 2009-2010 to 490 currently.
Cordova is on the brink of moving up in AHSAA classification from 3A to 4A, which will certainly mean changes for the school’s athletic programs.
However, adjustments are already being made within the walls of CHS.
For the first time since moving to the new school, every classroom is now in use.
The auditorium, which was not built to hold as many students as the rest of the building, had only two empty seats on the first day of class last month.
Extra security measures are also being taken. Freedom of movement for students is now restricted, and there is no acceptable excuse for being in the halls without a pass.
Last week’s fire drills required more preparation than ever before to eliminate traffic jams at the exits as nearly 500 students made their way out of the school at the same time.
Such growth would not typically be expected in a city that was devastated by tornadoes two years ago and is still without a downtown or a tax base.
Principal Kathy Vintson said the numbers themselves can be attributed to more students from schools such as Valley choosing to transfer to Cordova.
However, she can only guess at the reasons that Cordova has suddenly become so popular outside the city limits.
“I have been told that there is a buzz out there about Cordova. It’s a place you want to be and a place you want your kids to be,” Vintson said.
Vintson points first to the faculty and staff who strive to make CHS a safe, loving environment for all students.
The custodians take as much pride in the school as they do in their own homes, and the lunchroom workers dish out more than meals each day.
“They serve our children with love,” Vintson said.
The office staff are charged with monitoring the going and coming of students, but they are also surrogate mothers for some teens.
Also, teachers work overtime to make learning fun. When Vintson did walk-throughs of each classroom on the first day of school, she was impressed at how engaged each group of students seemed to be.
“I was so pleased with the planning that I could tell went into each lesson,” she said.
CHS has added several new programs under Vintson, including Advanced Placement.
In the school’s second year to offer AP, 115 juniors and seniors are taking AP classes, which offer them the opportunity to receive college credit.
Over the summer, Vintson went before the Walker County Board of Education to receive approval for an AP diploma endorsement for students who pass at least 10 AP or pre-AP courses.
Programs like AP work hand-in-hand with the school-wide initiative nicknamed IHOPE that began several months before the tornadoes in 2011. The acronym stands for “I Have the Opportunity and Potential to Excel.”
Hope and opportunity were two areas where Vintson noticed years ago that CHS students were lacking. There are now several signs, including the recent growth, to suggest that they are starting to believe in themselves as much as their principal does.
One of Vintson’s many challenges this year is to make sure Cordova remains true to itself no matter where its enrollment stands.
“At Cordova, we’re very traditional and we want everything to be the way it has always been. I want to continue all the traditions we’ve always had at Cordova, but it’s a lot more difficult when you’re supervising 490 students instead of 350,” she said.