The school opened in September 1957 with 103 students at the Sophomore level. Junior and Senior levels were added in subsequent years. The high school was created to provide college preparatory training for students with exceptional ability in academic fields. Its origins are also tied to Cold War politics and the "space race" with the Soviet Union. Franklin integrated in 1963 with scarcely any problems, unlike several other Orleans Parish Public Schools. Students throughout the city were able to apply for admission, as long as they scored well on an intelligence exam and had a good school record. Once admitted, students were required to maintain a B average or better.
In order to house the students appropriately, the building was renovated and refurbished to provide relatively modern facilities. The main building was never air conditioned. However, care was taken to preserve its historic architecture. Franklin relocated to its present location on the University of New Orleans campus during the 1989-90 academic year. The courthouse has continued to serve as a school building, first for Lusher Middle School and more recently for Audubon Montessori.