At a board meeting Wednesday morning, dozens of parents packed the meeting chambers and asked board members for new schools.
Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn had predicted the board would be ready to decide on at least one school at Wednesday’s meeting, but said new data brought to light by the district in a closed meeting delayed a vote.
Immediately after taking public comments, the board recessed into a roughly four-hour closed-door session, where board members said they were given more information on land acquisitions and the costs of doing so, which changed how they approached the vote.
“We realized there was a lot more we had to compare before we made a decision,” Scamihorn said.
Board members looked at three or four specific plots of land in the county, he said, and weighed the costs of buying the land against building a school on land already owned by the district.
They also looked at how much money the district could make by selling land on which a few of the existing elementary schools sit.
Board member David Banks said he was factoring in the revenue selling district land could bring in.
The district could make millions of dollars by selling the land underneath Brumby Elementary, near the corner of Powers Ferry Road and Delk Road, and Mountain View Elementary, near the intersection of Sandy Plains Road and Shallowford Road, Banks said.
“What’s the payback on the schools?” he asked.
Despite a lengthy discussion Wednesday, Banks said his mind had not been swayed. He was still in favor of rebuilding Mountain View Elementary School and consolidating Powers Ferry Elementary and East Valley Elementary.
More time needed
Board member Kathleen Angelucci said she was in favor of delaying the vote. She thought weighing the multiple variables, including the costs of land acquisition, class sizes and future SPLOST dollars was just too much to distill in one meeting.
“At the end of the day, it’s taking the money that we have and using it the best way we can,” Angelucci said.
Board member Tim Stultz agreed, and said he needed more time to think about his vote. There were too many variables presented to him Wednesday for him to thoroughly process on the issue.
A small group of parents from Mountain View Elementary waited for the board to come out of executive session, just in case their school was picked. They ordered pizza and swapped stories of their children’s classrooms and waited for a decision.
Karin DeAmicis, a parent at Mountain View, said she was disappointed with the lack of a decision, but promised to be back at the January meeting. The parents at Mountain View said they have been pushing for a rebuild for the last four months, and were not willing to give up.
Scamihorn said the board will vote in January.
“We won’t keep deferring this,” he said.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa gave the board a list of six options in October from which to choose two new elementary schools to be constructed within the next two years.
The construction of the two schools will be funded by SPLOST IV, a five-year tax approved by voters in March 2013, which is expected to raise more than $717 million.
The district plans to spend about $159 million on construction projects with SPLOST IV dollars. These projects include the two elementary schools, as well as a new middle school in the east Cobb area and new buildings for Wheeler High School and Osborne High School.
The board will meet again for a work session on Jan. 15 to discuss choosing the schools.