DALTON, Ga. -- Surrounded by dozens of students, parents, staff and community members gazing at the gleaming new windows and brick walls, Danny Hayes didn't try to contain his excitement.
"My buttons are busting on my chest because I'm so proud," the Whitfield County Schools superintendent said amid chuckles Wednesday morning, moments before a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Coahulla Creek High School.
The three-story high school in northern Whitfield County, built near historic Prater's Mill, is on a hill, enclosed by rolling hills ablaze in fall color. The school has been open since the beginning of the school year, but officials always planned to hold the ribbon-cutting in November.
"Building this school was not an easy task by no means," Hayes said. "Personalized learning was the main design and idea behind the plan."
The architecture focuses on 21st-century technology and shared common spaces to provide students with the best learning environment, Hayes said. Each of the students also received an Android tablet computer instead of textbooks.
Total cost for land purchases, construction and outfitting the school was $45.2 million. Coahulla Creek, with a capacity of 1,200 to 1,600, has about 750 students enrolled this year, Assistant Principal Stephanie Hungerpiller said.
The school expects to grow to about 1,000 students by next year, she said.
Moving students from Whitfield County's other two high schools and adjusting to a new school has gone smoothly, Hungerpiller said.
After the ribbon cutting, students gave tours, showcasing the theater, media room, two gyms and a weight room. Each of the three floors has a common room and classrooms that can be opened into one space, allowing teachers to combine classes if they are working on a project.
Freshman Rachel Cherry led one of the tours. The 14-year-old, who is a cheerleader and involved in sports, said her favorite parts of the school are the gym and the indoor walking track.
She is less enthusiastic about using electronic tablets.
"Some students use them a lot, but I prefer textbooks," Cherry said.
Tablets are great for searching for certain words when she is looking for an answer, but she likes reading her assignments from a book, she said.
Hungerpiller said teachers have some textbooks and work with students to meet their needs.
"We combine traditional teaching practices with technology -- our goal is to meet the learning styles of students as individuals," she said.
Kelly and Tim Lynch, who toured the school with their freshman son Chase, said the cutting-edge technology offered by the school was a major factor in their decision to enroll their son.
The Lynches, who live in Whitfield County, had paid tuition to send Chase to Dalton city schools before Coahulla Creek opened. A meeting with Principal Phillip Brown cemented the deal.
"We liked his philosophy," Kelly Lynch said.
So far, being a freshman in high school and being part of the first class that will attend Coahulla Creek all through high school has been a good experience, Chase said. He loves the technology and his Android tablet, although he admitted he still takes notes on paper.
"It takes a while to get used to it," he said. "But I like it here."