The board is set to consider a $14.5 million contract with Swofford Construction of Austell to build the West Cobb Ninth Grade Center at Harrison. The contract also includes renovations to the school’s theater, choral room and PE and band fields; track resurfacing; floor finishing; and electrical site work. If approved, construction would be completed by July 10, 2013.
During Wednesday’s work session, board member Lynnda Eagle, who represents Harrison, said the project must be approved, but Kathleen Angelucci and Alison Bartlett both questioned if the expansion is needed in light of declining attendance and budget overruns.
“We are not allowed to not do a (SPLOST) project unless the funding isn’t there,” Eagle said. “I appeal to board members to approve this motion. The community expects it.”
But Bartlett said that because the project is more than $700,000 over budget, the maintenance work should be done now, but the ninth grade center can be delayed until 2013.
Angelucci said the project isn’t necessary.
“I’m concerned about putting something somewhere that is not needed (and) how it encumbers us in the future,” Angelucci said. “Our enrollment has been stagnant.”
Chris Ragsdale, deputy superintendent of operations, could not say what the cost of just the center would be as it had never been calculated separately from maintenance.
The overage cost for the project will be paid for with the SPLOST III contingency fund, which sits at $3.7 million.
About 2,000 students currently attend Harrison. Five years ago, just before voters approved SPLOST III, about 2,600 students attended the school. Ragsdale said the school remains overcrowded by more than 200 students.
Heather Ryan, whose daughter, Morgan, is a senior at Harrison, says the school needs the expansion.
“In the changing of classes, there’s so many of them in that main hall, Main Street, it is nearly impossible to maneuver,” Heather Ryan said. “I’ve had that issue in going to visit … it’s hard to get through the kids.”
If approved, her young child, Campbell, a seventh-grader at Lost Mountain Middle, would reap the benefits.
“I think the ninth-graders need a chance to transition into that big school and into the academic changes that are required of them,” she said. “I think it would help my son tremendously, to be in an area specifically for him.”
She plans to meet with a group of local parents on Monday to decide how to persuade the board to approve the project.
“I’ll do what I have to do,” she said.
Another future Harrison parent, Daryl McMillan, knows first-hand what a difference a ninth-grade center can make.
Her oldest daughter, whose name she did not share, is in the magnet program at North Cobb High, where a freshman academy opened in August.
“I have been very satisfied,” said McMillan, who also has a seventh-grade daughter who would attend the Harrison ninth-grade center.
“I think that these kids needs to be together,” she said. “There’s a very big difference in ninth grade and 10th to 12th. Hallways are very crowded in the high school, and these kids are young.”