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Virgil I. Grissom High School

Virgil I. Grissom High School, more commonly referred to as Grissom High School, is a public high school in Huntsville, Alabama, United States with approximately 2000 students in grades 9-12 from Southeast Huntsville. The school was named a 2007 Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.[2] In the Newsweek ranking of schools throughout the nation for 2015, Grissom High School was ranked second best in the state and 390th nationally.[3] Grissom was the only high school in Huntsville to make the 2015 list.

Virgil I. Grissom High School
Virgil I. Grissom High School Crest1.jpg
1001 Haysland Road
Huntsville, Alabama 35802
United States
Coordinates 34°39′43″N 86°32′17″W / 34.662°N 86.538°W / 34.662; -86.538Coordinates: 34°39′43″N 86°32′17″W / 34.662°N 86.538°W / 34.662; -86.538
Type Public
Motto "Id Facere Possumus"
(We can do it)
Established 1969
School district Huntsville City Schools
Superintendent Dr. Matt Akin
Principal Becky Balentine
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 1,992
Color(s) Orange, Brown & White             
Nickname Tigers
Accreditation Southern Association of Colleges and Schools[1]
Newspaper The Imprint
Yearbook Invictus



The school is located in Southeast Huntsville and serves an area of largely middle to upper-middle-class neighborhoods. The suburban middle schools within the area include: Mountain Gap Middle School, Challenger Middle School, and Whitesburg Middle School.


Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom

Grissom High School was founded in 1969 and is named for astronaut Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom, killed in the Apollo 1 fire at Cape Kennedy, Florida on January 27, 1967. Huntsville is home to NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and has ties to the space program. At the same time, the Huntsville City Schools named Roger B. Chaffee Elementary and Ed White Middle School for Grissom's fallen Apollo 1 crewmates.[4]

In August 2012, the Huntsville City Schools announced plans to tear down the original two-story main high school building and replace it with a three-story structure at an estimated cost of $58 million. The rebuild would see ninth graders held at their feeder middle schools until construction is completed in 2016.[5]

Tom Drake served as Grissom's principal from 2000 through August 2013. The school board named June Kalange, then a vice-principal and former science teacher at Grissom, as his replacement in early August 2013.[6] As of 2015, the current principal is Rebecca Balentine.

Potential constructionEdit

The Huntsville City Schools had been contemplating rebuilding the school by around 2016 either at the current site, or else at a 60-acre site adjacent to Weatherly Road's west end.[7][8] The board learned on March 7, 2013, that a different, larger piece of land was offered at no additional cost just south of the Weatherly Road site.[9] The now-under construction Grissom property is on National Boulevard, immediately west of Lowe's and Sam's Club. Published plans would extend Weatherly Road across Memorial Parkway in order to serve that site.[10]

Two memoranda of understanding (MoU) were signed on May 3, 2013.[11] These interrelated MoUs are frameworks without contractual obligation.[12]

  • First of two is "MoU-B/C" that has two parties: Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and City Schools Superintendent Casey Wardysnki
  • Second of two MoU between Mayor Battle and Superintendent Wardysnki also adds a third party: Hylis Inc. President John W. Hays

The MoUs acknowledge a "gift to the city by Hylis"[12] consisting of difference between selling price ($2,531,267) and appraised value ($9,830,000 per Hylis). Additional parcels for access roads and a park will also be donated by Hylis.[11]

Re-use of Bailey Cove siteEdit

Several plans are under discussion for usage of Grissom High School's present campus at 7901 Bailey Cove Road.

One plan envisions creation of Southeast Huntsville Municipal Complex, which would include:[13]

  • Relocation of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library's Bailey Cove branch
  • Relocation of Huntsville Police Department's South Precinct
  • Gymnasium and athletic fields become a Parks and Recreation Department facility
  • Auditorium becomes a community theater/conference center
  • Cost is estimated at $8.4 million

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding GHS land was on agenda for the Board of Education work session of May 2, 2013.[14] The MoU approved at that session pledges a transfer to the City of Huntsville, of the Grissom and J.O. Johnson High School campuses, following their respective relocations.[11][15]

Academic achievementEdit

In 2007, Newsweek magazine ranked Grissom among the top 5% of all high schools in the United States. The school was ranked 531 among the top 1200 high schools in the nation based on the number of Advanced Placement, Cambridge tests, and/or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school and then dividing by the number of graduating seniors.[16] In the Newsweek ranking of schools throughout the nation for 2015, Grissom High School was ranked second best in the state and 390th nationally.[3] Grissom was the only high school in Huntsville to make the 2015 list.

Grissom produced 28 National Merit Semifinalists for 2007, the highest number in the state.[17] Grissom's math teams and academic team have also earned national recognition. Grissom's 2007 Science Olympiad state team placed 2nd at the state competition at Samford University. They participated in the National Science Olympiad competition in Kansas in May 2007, and in 2008 participated in the National competition in Augusta, Georgia. In 2008, Grissom's Debate and Speech Team qualified for, and competed in the NFL National Tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Notable peopleEdit

Notable alumniEdit

Notable facultyEdit

Advanced Placement classesEdit


Grissom Band 2006-2007

As of 2007, Grissom has football, boys' and girls' basketball, volleyball, baseball, cross country, softball, track, golf, swim/dive, boys' and girls' soccer, boys' and girls' tennis, wrestling, and cheerleading teams, a dance program, a choral program, a theatre program,[22] as well as marching, symphonic, and jazz bands. Other notable extracurricular activities include an academic team and an extremely competitive math team, that in addition to competing in contests, runs numerous mathematics programs, camps, and competitions. Rocket City Math League is an international mathematics competition run by Grissom math team students. A wide variety of extracurricular clubs are also present at Grissom.

Grissom's academic team has won 9 Alabama UAB/Alabama Scholastic Competition Association (ASCA) state championships (1982 (4A), 1987 (5A-6A), 1991, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, & 2013 (The state's inaugural Junior Varsity Championship.)) - the most of any Alabama high school.[23]

School publicationsEdit

Grissom's bimonthly newspaper is The Imprint, which is recognized by the Alabama Scholastic Press Association. The annual literary magazine is called Seed, and the annual school yearbook is named Invictus.

Army JROTCEdit

Grissom High School has an Army JROTC program.[24][25] The JROTC has three active extracurricular activities currently. The Military Skills Team attends national competitions annually, recently placing First and Third in the nation in 2012.[citation needed] The program also maintains a color guard and drill team. The color guard presents and retires the American and Alabama state flags at many citywide and school events.[26]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Selected 2007 Schools". No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools Program. U.S. Department of Education. August 15, 2008. 
  3. ^ a b "America's Top High Schools". Newsweek. Retrieved August 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ Jaques, Bob (June 6, 2002). "First spacewalk by American astronaut 37 years ago" (PDF). Marshall Star. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. p. 5. 
  5. ^ Banaszak, Nick (August 16, 2012). "Major Makeover Planned For Grissom High School". WHNT-TV. Retrieved August 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Bonvillian, Crystal (August 9, 2013). "Huntsville board names June Kalange as new principal of Grissom High School". The Huntsville Times. Huntsville, AL. Retrieved August 11, 2013. 
  7. ^ Bonvillian, Crystal (January 18, 2013). "Huntsville archaeological group speaks out against proposed Grissom High move". Huntsville Times. 
  8. ^ "Town Hall Meeting at Grissom High 14 January 2013 (by Operations Department, High School Educational Specifications, download "town hall meeting 14 jan 13v3.pptx")". Huntsville City Schools. Jan 14, 2013. 
  9. ^ Bonvillian, Crystal (March 7, 2013). "Grissom High School relocation may move forward at new site". Huntsville Times. 
  10. ^ Doyle, Steve (March 20, 2013). "Huntsville subdivision panel OKs 61-acre site for rebuilt Grissom High School". The Huntsville Times. 
  11. ^ a b c Doyle, Steve (May 6, 2013). "10 things you need to know about deals to rebuild Grissom and Johnson high schools in Huntsville". The Huntsville Times. 
  12. ^ a b "Grissom and Johnson High Agreements". Scribd (Posted courtesy of The Huntsville Times). 
  13. ^ Bonvillian, Crystal (May 1, 2013). "More details emerging on plans for Huntsville municipal complex on Grissom High campus". The Huntsville Times. 
  14. ^ "Meeting Agenda: Work session 5/2/2013 - 5:30 PM". EBOARDS Link (school board agendas and related information). Huntsville City Board of Education. 
  15. ^ Bonvillian, Crystal (May 2, 2013). "Huntsville board approves transfer of Grissom and Johnson high school campuses to city". The Huntsville Times. 
  16. ^ DeButts, Jimmy (May 21, 2007). "Irondale school among nation's best". Birmingham Business Journal. 
  17. ^ "Grissom puts 28 in Merit semifinals". Huntsville Times. 
  18. ^ "Authors: Kay Cornelius". Barbour Publishing. 
  19. ^ "Children's Author/Illustrator Kay Cornelius". 
  20. ^ "Counselor's profile of Grissom High School". Grissom High official website. 
  21. ^ "UAH Dual Credit Program". University of Alabama in Huntsville. 
  22. ^ "Grissom High School sports directory". Grissom High official website. 
  23. ^ "Alabama Scholastic Competition Association". HS Winners Archive. Alabama Scholastic Competition Association. 
  24. ^ "US Army JROTC programs in Alabama". 
  25. ^ "Grissom High School, Huntsville, AL". The Institute of Heraldry. Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. April 17, 1996. Retrieved November 30, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Grissom's new gun now loudest fan of football program". Huntsville Times. September 7, 2006. 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit