It’s really the behemoth of high schools in Donelson.

McGavock High School scored again last weekend with its grand champion marching band, but there’s so much more to the academy school tucked in the heart of Donelson. 

It opened in 1971 and is part of Metro-Nashville Public Schools. It’s on part of the McGavock plantation that Metro Parks bought in 1968 for $68,000. It was named for the antebellum Two Rivers mansion built by David H. McGavock.

The mammoth school was one of the first comprehensive high schools in Nashville at 3150 McGavock Pike.

It’s said to be the largest high school in Tennessee, about 500,000 square feet with four softball fields, a baseball diamond, six tennis courts, a football field and a track. 

The 14-acre building houses 82 classrooms, 14 science labs, a school farm, credit union, flight simulator, bistro, nine career and technical classrooms, seven business education labs, two gymnasiums, two cafeterias, a 500-plus-seat auditorium, planetarium, 60-plus computer labs and more. 

Even graduates can get lost in a heartbeat. 

The heart of the school is principal Robbin Wall. He’s been with McGavock for 11 years and came from Texas.

“I was recruited and wanted something new,” he said.  

Wall said there are about 2,086 students at the school.

“Sometimes we are the largest in the state; other times we are the third largest. It changes each year,” he said.

What’s different about McGavock is that it combines an academic program with extensive vocational training. 

In 2014, then-President Barack Obama visited the school to celebrate the academy structure adopted there.

The academy structure is sort of hard to comprehend. Essentially, the huge school is broken down into academies.

“The Aegis Labs Academy of Life Science and Law, the Gaylord Marriot Academy of Hospitality, the USCCU Academy of Finance, the CMT Academy of Digital Design and Communication, the Cummins Academy of Transportation and the Southwest Airlines Academy of Aviation,” said Wall.

And, the students go through the freshmen ninth-grade academy right away to figure it all out. 

Wall said all students get the regular curriculum, as well. 

“This doesn’t’ take away from core education,” Wall said.  “We have calculus, honors, advanced academic classes and everything else. We just offer a path, as well.”

Its culinary program features a true chef. Its nursing program has real nurses. It’s outside the textbook and real world at this school.

Wall’s goal is to raise the average ACT score of 18 to 21 or higher.

“We have four academies, but there are 12 pathways,” said Wall. “There is a choice suited to each student.”

Wall said there is much interest in the academy model. 

“We’ve had people from England, Germany and Japan to see our model,” he said. 

All 12 Metro-Nashville schools have academy models now, said Wall.

While the band was grand champion last weekend at Contest of Champions at Middle Tennessee State University, football, basketball, golf and bowling are the bomb at the school. 

“It’s about good people, a quality community and keeping things going in the right direction,” said Wall, who has two sons, a daughter and five grandchildren.

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