Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church plans to put a high school at the 32-acre Shirley Blumenthal Park formerly owned by the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. The park is at 2509 Post Oak Tritt Road near Holly Springs Road, about 6 miles north of Mt. Bethel’s campus, which educates students from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Commissioners unanimously granted an application for a special land-use permit Tuesday with a 3-0 vote. Cobb Chairman Tim Lee was not present for the vote and Commissioner Bob Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, recused himself because he is a member of the church and his son attends the school.
A little more than 500 students attend Mt. Bethel Christian Academy but aren’t able to continue their high school education with the school, said Jim Callis, head of school, before the commission Tuesday.
About half of the students who graduate from Mt. Bethel go on to attend either Walton High School or Wheeler High School, both public schools. The other half go to other private schools in the county that are mostly non-faith-based, Callis said.
“There is not currently a faith-based high school option in east Cobb,” Callis said.
The property has been owned by the Jewish center since 1986. Put up for sale two years ago, the center discontinued its use of the 21,000-square-foot classroom building but has continued to use its 14,000-square-foot gymnasium and playing fields.
Callis said the school plans to make minor improvements to the buildings and grounds, but the property is as close to being “turnkey” as it can be.
“Most of the facilities are already developed and will be able to be used by the high school in its current form,” Callis said.
Callis maintains the school will have a “small footprint on the community” because the school would be small by design.
“There’s an intimacy that’s embedded in our mission,” Callis said.
Nearby residents had concerns early in the school’s planning about traffic, but no one spoke in opposition to the school on Tuesday.
A shuttle will be available at both of Mt. Bethel’s campuses to transport students between the schools. Parents who have children in both the lower and upper schools would be able to make just one drop-off.
Students could be in school by August of next year and between 40 and 45 students are expected the first year. It will be open to students who are not members of the church.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents the area in which the school is located, previously conducted a town hall meeting to get feedback from residents about the school’s proposal.
Birrell said she thought concerns had been addressed and supported the school’s application.