Superintendent Michael Hinojosa presented the Cobb Board of Education with a list of six options of elementary schools from which to choose two to be rebuilt with SPLOST IV funds at a meeting in October.
While most schools were elated to be included on the list, that was not the case with Eastvalley.
The board is expected to begin discussions on what schools will be selected at its Dec. 11 meeting, said Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn.
Board Member David Banks put Eastvalley Elementary, located on Lower Roswell Road, on the list by proposing a consolidation with nearby Powers Ferry Elementary School, on Powers Ferry Road.
The proposal did not go over well with the Eastvalley community, which says it feels like they were ambushed by Banks’ consolidation plan.
Eric Stein, who has two daughters at Eastvalley, said Banks did not consult the school community before putting their school on the list. If Banks had inquired, Stein said, he would have discovered a happy school, content with their building, administration and school body, and solidly against a rebuild.
Eastvalley Elementary School was built in 1960, and has a capacity of 532 students, according to the district’s website.
As of November, the school had about 675 students, and about 30 percent of students receive free and reduced-cost lunches, said Principal Karen Wacker. Since she has been principal for the last six years, the school’s enrollment numbers have been stable.
The students are part of a community at the school, and most stay at the school for their entire elementary school careers, as the school has close to a 25 percent transiency rate, she said.
The school uses its 10 trailers to house English language learning classes, special programs and classes for advanced students, Wacker said. The trailers are not needed to house normal classrooms, as they are at other schools on the list, including Brumby and Harmony Leland, Wacker said.
“We’re blessed not to be at max class sizes,” she added.
Students travel between the main school building and the trailers through a system of covered pathways, which keeps them dry if it is raining, Wacker said about an addition that was put in with SPLOST III funds. She has heard no complaints from parents about the trailers since the awnings were installed three years ago.
While there are some things Wacker would like to have, such as more outlets for computers and electronic devices, she said teachers and administrators have worked out a system for dealing with the building they have.
“We make do,” she said.
In the last five years, Wacker said the county has installed, with SPLOST III funds, a new covered bus awning, a new HVAC system, a sprinkler system, tankless water heater, and new trailers and is also awaiting an expanded parking lot.
“It’s an old building, but the county has always been very responsive to any request or issues we have,” Wacker said.
In wake of the consolidation news, Stein, the Eastvalley parent, founded the Eastvalley Elementary Advocacy Alliance, a group of parents who are protesting board members to let them know of their disapproval.
The parent group presented Banks at the school in late October, where they say they were frustrated by the lack of answers Banks provided them on their questions about the consolidation.
Banks told parents at the meeting that he put their school on the list because it was old and had a number of trailers, as did Powers Ferry Elementary.
The district was attempting to reduce the number of trailers at schools, Banks said, which made the Eastvalley and Powers Ferry consolidation a logical proposal.
Stein said the parent community feels there are more deserving schools on the list that require a rebuild, like Brumby and Mountain View Elementary.
Stein said most parents fear a larger school, and if they were to combine with Powers Ferry Elementary, the student body would exceed 1,000 students. This would be too large, Stein said, and parents worry the close-knit community-feel of the school would disappear.
“I don’t think bigger is better for elementary schools,” said co-PTA President Becki Goodloe. “But until we have more details, we are not in favor of the proposed consolidation.”
Eastvalley parent Carol Murray agreed, as she prized the fact she knew most of the parents and teachers at the school. At a bigger school, this would be much more difficult, she said.
Parents: ‘Keep the school small’
As Wacker walked through the school on a recent Monday morning, she pointed out the school’s community garden, freshly painted walls and murals, all done with parent involvement.
Parents and community members volunteered their time painting the school’s hallways blue last summer, Wacker said, as she pointed out numerous murals featuring the school mascot, Ella, a bald eagle.
The school’s foundation and PTA also helped fund a new gym floor and a remodeled staff lounge in the last five years. Wacker said staff is still breaking in the recent improvements.
As of Thursday morning, the school’s foundation and PTA were wrapping up a successful fundraiser that raised close to $67,000 for the school. These funds, Wacker said, would be used to hire a part-time science teacher, computer lab teacher and buy an iPad cart filled with about 30 iPads for students to use.
Wacker said she couldn’t be happier with the school’s parents and staff, who have told her they would like to keep the school small.
Waiting for the decision
The school board did not discuss what schools would be selected for rebuilds at its Nov. 13 meeting, and the parents and administrators at Eastvalley are said to be holding their breath, waiting to see what the district will decide.
“We’re just waiting to see what happens,” Wacker said.