St. Benedict's school expansion a step closer
by Megan Thornton
May 11, 2013 12:23 AM | 5576 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pre-kindergarten teacher Natalie Kane sounds out the word Friday and she goes over the days of the week with her class at St. Benedict's Episcopal Day School in Smyrna.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
Pre-kindergarten teacher Natalie Kane sounds out the word Friday and she goes over the days of the week with her class at St. Benedict's Episcopal Day School in Smyrna.
Staff/Laura Moon
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First-graders at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church Day Shool work on their Mother’s Day presents on Friday. <br>Staff/Laura Moon
First-graders at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church Day Shool work on their Mother’s Day presents on Friday.
Staff/Laura Moon
slideshow
St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church Day School received a nod from the Cobb Planning Commission this week to expand its Smyrna campus.

After a 4-0 vote in favor of a special land-use permit, the measure will now head to the Board of Commissioners for final approval.

The school, at 2160 Cooper Lake Road, plans to move into a building on just over 2 acres on the northwest side of Cooper Lake Road east of Weaver Street this fall with plans to add a sixth-grade class.

After opening in 2009, the school now serves 264 children on its 3.5-acre campus ranging from 2-year-olds to fifth-grade students.

With the property only zoned for up to 280 students, the Rev. Brian Sullivan, chairman of the board of trustees, said the school had to look elsewhere to grow.

Sullivan said he plans to open the new location with 60 sixth-grade students this coming school year and add a grade per year through eighth grade each following year.

The 11,100-square-foot building is being used as a warehouse, but Sullivan said the facility will be renovated to include a cafetorium, an indoor/outdoor play area, 10 classrooms, five or six offices and a small kitchen. The exterior of the building will also be renovated to look similar to the main campus and have additional landscaping, including a row of 12-foot cryptomeria to separate the facility from neighboring homes.

Sullivan said it has been a long process of about six zoning hearings, but he looks at the school as a community venture and said it’s worth the extra effort to fit in with the neighborhood.

“Commissioner Bob Ott has done a lot as far as addressing neighbor concerns,” Sullivan said. “As a church and a school, it’s been really fun to get to know our neighbors. It started off rather contentious, but we’ve really become friends.”

Though Sullivan said he believes the new site will be able to sustain the school’s growth, a local resident said she still has several concerns about the addition and the process has been “more than a little disheartening,” as she believes the plans vary too much from zoning code.

Mary Rose Barnes said her main problem is that the new site is too small for the intended use according to code, as county zoning requires schools to be on at least 5 acres.

“The situation there is just not big enough to sustain 200 children long-term,” she said. “They’re going to outgrow it … There should be some stability there. I’m glad the school is successful, but in this case it’s at the expense of the neighborhood.”

Barnes also said she had traffic concerns, as the two properties are not adjacent and the schools will have the same start times, coupled by the fact that there aren’t any traffic lights on Weaver Street.

Sullivan said the entrance and exit to the carpool on Weaver Street has two carpool lanes to allow 50 cars to line up on the school property during drop-off and pick-up times.

The commissioners will meet May 21 to consider the special land-use permit.

This is the second south Cobb private school project to come before the Cobb Planning Commission this week. The other is an all-new school that wants to build a facility that could accommodate 300 students as part of a mixed-use development. This school, called The SAE School, hopes to open in August near Mableton.
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