Ensworth High School opens its new 125-acre campus today with an inaugural class of 82 students representing three counties, 12 private schools and six non-private schools as it expands from a K-8 institution for the first time.
Though more than 80 percent of students who completed eighth grade at the Ensworth lower school will continue on to the high school, the freshman class as a whole is nearly evenly split between Ensworth and non-Ensworth students, according to Admissions Director Missy Wallace.
The goal is for those distinctions to be forgotten by the year's end.
"A sense of unity, a commitment to the school and that they have a joyful academic experience" are signs Wallace said would indicate the first year was a success.
"The sense of being first is already creating a sense of comradery between them.," Wallace said.
Many of the characteristics of the new school will be in the hands of this first class as they design traditions, decide which extracurricular activities to pursue and help pen an honor code.
A student vote more than a year ago influenced the decision to have uniforms, according to Wallace, which consist of white and the school colors, orange and black.
Among the more atypical requirements is three weekly hours of a personal fitness program designed by Fitness Director Scott Perkinson, former strength and conditioning coach for Brentwood Academy.
"The point is to complement their sports practices," Wallace said, explaining each student will have a different regimen. "It's also to teach fitness for a lifetime."
Students will also participate in biannual service learning projects in the community, complete a unit of study beforehand and debrief about the experience afterwards.
The $15,800 tuition pays for a leased laptop, books, meals, school supplies and mandatory costs, but a significant number of the freshman class are benefiting from a "sizeable" financial aid budget, according to Wallace.
"We've had great success in our fund raising efforts," Wallace said, without specifying what portion of the $60 million campaign was designated for financial aid.
The school plans to add a class each year and will graduate its first students on the 50th anniversary of the original school's founding.
As the students enter the building on the first day of school, each one will sign his or her name to an oversized leather-bound book as the first Ensworth High students.
Wallace has heard students are competing to see who will be the first to walk through the door.
"There's an energy level and enthusiasm you don't normally see for a child about to be in high school," Wallace said.