In 2013, the district plans to move the students at Fitzhugh Lee H.A.V.E.N. Academy to where Brown elementary is currently located, 3265 Brown Road in Smyrna. They are also considering selling the property, which is located near the intersection of Cumberland Parkway and Atlanta Road.
Fitzhugh Lee H.A.V.E.N. Academy is one of three schools on the chopping block as part of a redistricting proposal released two weeks ago. The school, which was renamed in 1936 after Col. Fitzhugh Lee, was originally established in 1896 as Locust Grove School. The school served the then-Locust Grove community with first through eighth grade classes.
Fitzhugh Lee School offered first through 11th grade.
“That building is one of the most well-built in the county,” said Mary Annie Johnson, a 1948 graduate of Fitzhugh Lee who is considered by many to be the school’s historian.
Charles Switzer, a member of the last graduating class at Fitzhugh Lee in 1951, said the possible closure and destruction of the school would be the waste of a great asset in the south Cobb community.
“The gym alone is the nicest gym in the county,” Switzer said.
He and Johnson both played basketball there in high school and said the floors and bleachers are hardwood, similar to when the gym was originally built in 1938.
The story of the school goes back much further than that, though.
Wiley Brown and Robert W. Maner donated the seven-acre property in 1896 for the purpose of a school, and in 1899 Brown deeded two acres of the property to Cobb County for the primary use as a school, church or courthouse.
Locust Grove School was built as a one-room log cabin in 1896, serving all grades, and was renamed in September 1936 after Col. Fitzhugh Lee. Switzer said he was a well-known Mariettan and a former personal aide to President Theodore Roosevelt.
Col. Lee would pick up kids and drop them off at the school while on his way down Highway 41 from Marietta to Fort McPherson in East Point, Switzer added.
Beginning in 1952, Fitzhugh Lee became an elementary school, serving first- through eighth-graders. The school district added a kindergarten program in 1977, after which it served as a traditional elementary school, serving students in kindergarten through fifth grade, until its closure in 1998.
The school was re-opened in 2000 and has served as a school for students in kindergarten through 12th-grade under H.A.V.E.N. Academy since that time. The school serves students with autism, severe emotional disorders and other special needs.
Cobb school’s SPLOST administrator Doug Shepard said that 1.75 acres of the property was originally deeded to the county with a reversionary clause stating that if the property were to ever cease being a school, church or county facility, ownership would revert back to the donor or heirs of Brown.
“It’s a fascinating deed. It’s an old, handwritten deed that’s barely legible … on lined paper in an old deed book,” Shepard said.
Of the eight parcels on the Fitzhugh Lee property, three pertain to Brown’s reversionary clause.
“If closure is approved by the board, we would consider selling the entire property ‘as-is’ or retaining the restricted portion and selling only the unrestricted, 5.75 acre portion,” he said.
At one point, the county was considering purchasing it, but according to Commissioner Bob Ott, that was just a discussion between he and Holli Cash, the former school board member for the southeast Cobb district.
Ott said the county does not have any need to buy the property now.
Tim Stultz, who holds the school board seat once held by Cash, said he has heard that a commercial or private education company may be interested in buying the property, but he is unaware of any formal inquiries.
Shepard said the school board is expected to decide in late February whether to close the school. After that, he said, the district will decide whether to put the property up for sale.The district is also considering the closure of Brown and Sky View elementary schools and the reorganization of Austell Primary and Intermediate schools each into traditional, kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary schools. The redistricting could require rezoning attendance lines for 25 schools in south Cobb, which a total of about 15,000 students attend.
The redistricting process will be carried out in two phases.
Schools in Phase 1 will be affected in August 2012. These schools include Austell Primary and Intermediate, Birney, Bryan, Clarkdale, Clay, Hollydale, Mableton, Milford, Riverside Intermediate and Primary, Russell, Sanders and Sky View elementary schools.
Students at Sky View will be moved to the new Mableton school at 5220 Church St.
Schools in Phase 2 will be affected in August 2013. These schools include Argyle, Belmont Hills, Brown, Fitzhugh Lee H.A.V.E.N. Academy, Green Acres, Harmony Leland, King Springs, LaBelle, New Smyrna, Nickajack, Norton Park and Teasley elementary schools.
Brown students will attend the new Smyrna area elementary school at 1099 Fleming St.
The Cobb district has a public comment wall regarding the proposal. Visit www.cobbk12.org and click on “2011 Redistricting” or e-mail the district at firstname.lastname@example.org.