The Cobb Board of Education stirred controversy in March when it revealed plans to relocate Brumby Elementary to a site off Terrell Mill Road near Sope Creek Elementary. Parents from the Sope Creek community have voiced opposition to the plan for a variety of reasons, including traffic, the behavior of Brumby students, redistricting and the amount spent purchasing the land.
One parent even told the board during a recent meeting the board discussed the deal in a “smoke-filled room.”
But another point of opposition was East Cobb Middle School may also be relocated to the site. The site has 35 acres, only 15 of which would be taken up by Brumby, and East Cobb Middle is in line for a rebuild under a special purpose local option sales tax approved last March.
The plot was placed under contract by the school board for $9.4 million in early February.
There are four elementary schools in Cobb County adjacent to middle schools.
School board member Scott Sweeney faces Kevin Nicholas in the May 20 Republican primary, with the winner taking the seat for the next four years. Sweeney previously said moving East Cobb Middle to the site is a possibility.
When the MDJ asked Sweeney more recently about the potential move, he said he’s still undecided.
“The district’s administration has not made a recommendation to the Board of Education,” he said. “Should the district make that recommendation, my decision will be based on the best information made available to the board as well as community and board discussions.”
Sweeney’s opponent for the east Cobb seat said he does not favor the idea.
“At a minimum, if there are no plans for the rest of the land, our school board should not be investing $9.4 million in taxpayer money in property without having its use determined with a proper plan,” Nicholas said. “If there is a plan to use the extra 20 acres, our students, teachers, residents and taxpayers have a right to know.”
Post 2 incumbent Tim Stultz agreed with Nicholas, citing traffic issues.
“I believe if a proper traffic study is performed by the Cobb DOT, it will show that adding a middle school to the site will negatively impact the corridor more so than just adding Brumby,” Stultz said. “If that is the case, I do not support locating East Cobb Middle to the site.”
Stultz has two opponents in the Republican primary for the Smyrna/Vinings area seat. One of his opponents is Susan Thayer of Smyrna, a consultant for former Fulton County superintendent James Wilson’s firm, Education Planners. Thayer said she is undecided.
“I don’t have enough information to make a decision on this issue,” she said. “It’s my understanding that no proposal has been made to the board at this time.”
But Stultz’s other opponent, Wells Fargo lending officer Jeff Abel, said he does support the idea. He pointed out there are middle schools in the Post 2 district that are older and should be replaced before East Cobb, but said putting both schools on the same site could be unavoidable.
“The reality is that if the school district were to split and sell the remaining acreage beyond the 15 acre minimum necessary for Brumby, a residential development there would allow 2.5 homes per acre under current zoning. So at least 50 homes could be built on that additional land, which would certainly have a similar impact to the traffic load in the area as a middle school,” Abel said. “As large tracts of land for our schools becomes harder to find, a combined elementary/middle school location may be inevitable.”
Post 4, which represents northeast Cobb, has no incumbent, as Kathleen Angelucci is not seeking re-election. Instead, either Lockheed Martin analyst David Chastain or former Marietta Sixth Grade Academy Principal Bill Scott will hold the seat.
Chastain said he was undecided.
“Right now, I do not have enough information,” Chastain said. “I could see the benefits to it. I understand the people that live in the area are upset about the idea. There’s a lot more there I can’t see at the moment as a candidate.”
Scott also is undecided.
“People were very concerned about the traffic that’s going to be in that area, and if they put two schools in there, that will make it worse,” he said. “I think some further study would have to be done before a decision could be made on that. … The concern to residents is that it could bundle up traffic and make total gridlock.”