As the board began discussions on how to select the two elementary schools that will be rebuilt within the next few years with SPLOST IV funds, Banks came to the table with his own solution — to merge two schools.
Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said Banks’ idea of merging two schools was not a surprise, and that he had mentioned to Scamihorn that he was working on a merger proposal, although the identities of the two schools involved were not mentioned until the board meeting.
Banks said Powers Ferry Elementary School, just off of Powers Ferry Road and South Marietta Parkway, is over 60 years old, and needs to be rebuilt, as does Eastvalley Elementary, off of Lower Roswell Road and Holt Road.
New schools require 15 acres of land to be built, and Powers Ferry does not have the space to do that, he said.
“If we built a new school, it would accommodate 1,000 students,” Banks said. “If we did Powers Ferry by itself, it would automatically be under capacity by a large amount,” so it would make sense to merge these two schools into one.
Banks said he had not been in much contact with the schools before he proposed the merger, and came up with the idea on his own.
“I did not see this merge coming,” said Powers Ferry Elementary Principal Rattana Inthirathvongsy.
As of Sept. 5, his school had 442 students, he said, and the school can hold 459 students.
Inthirathvongsy had emailed Banks with concerns he had about needed repairs for his school, but had not requested a rebuild, he said.
“My building is very old and it needs a lot of attention, but it depends on the board and what they are going to do,” with deciding what schools will get rebuilt, he said.
Parents at Eastvalley shared Inthirathvongsy’s surprise.
“It was a sudden thing,” said Eric Stein, an Eastvalley parent of two.
Stein was involved in quickly rounding up the support of parents and creating a Facebook page for the proposed merger, Eastvalley Elementary Advocacy Alliance, which had more than 100 “likes” as of Monday evening.
“We are generally opposed to the idea in principle, but we are open to listening to the proposal,” Stein said.
The Facebook page links to a prepared letter that Stein and other parents are signing and will send to board members, “so that the board recognizes the unity, cohesion and singularity of purpose that we have,” reads the last post by Eastside Elementary Advocacy Alliance.
“Sure, what school wouldn’t want to be rebuilt,” he said, as the school is at least 50 years old, but the school has had recent construction that has helped it function smoothly.
Eastvalley has recently installed a new HVAC system, new ceilings, new electrical equipment, a new gym floor and new lighting throughout the school, he said.
The parents at Eastvalley are content with the school’s size, about 675 students, he said, because it makes it easy for parents and students to become close with the administration. Any bigger and the school would lose that feel, which is what many parents love about Eastvalley, he said.
“We don’t want a bigger school; 1,200 students is ridiculous,” he said, admitting there were other schools that needed an immediate rebuild, citing Brumby Elementary, Harmony Leland Elementary and Mountain View Elementary.
“In an ideal world, Eastvalley would be rebuilt, however, there are considerably more deserving schools in the area,” Stein said.
In the past few months, other county elementary schools have been vocal at board meetings, with parents, business owners and students showing up in large numbers and complaining of leaking roofs, moldy classrooms and overcrowded classrooms.
Brumby Elementary School, Mountain View Elementary School and Harmony Leland Elementary have been especially active in campaigning for their schools to be chosen to be rebuilt with the SPLOST IV funds, inviting board members to visit the schools and showing pictures at board meetings.
Although a list of the proposed schools has not yet been disclosed, board member Scott Sweeney assured parents at Brumby Elementary School last week that Brumby was “on the list” to be considered for a rebuild.
No other board members brought proposals to the meeting.
The board is expected to be given a list of the schools to choose from to rebuild at its meeting this Thursday, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the board room, at 514 Glover St., Marietta.