MARIETTA — Superintendent Chris Ragsdale unveiled a $750 million project list on Wednesday that included new schools for Harmony Leland, Eastvalley and King Springs elementary schools and Smyrna Middle, among other projects.
The Cobb Board of Education is considering asking voters in March to approve a new 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax spanning 2019 to 2023 once the existing education SPLOST sunsets in December 2018.
Deputy Superintendent John Adams said the board will be presented with the final project list by September 14. The board is waiting until October to decide whether to move forward on the referendum.
Although the project list is still being adjusted, some of the major projects include:
♦ Replacing Harmony Leland Elementary School in Mableton with a new school to be built on Factory Shoals Road.
♦ Replacing Eastvalley Elementary School on Lower Roswell Road in east Cobb with a new school to be built on Holt Road on the former site of East Cobb Middle School, which is being replaced through the existing SPLOST program.
♦ Replacing King Springs Elementary School on Reed Road in Smyrna on its current site.
♦ Replacing Smyrna Middle School on a site to be determined.
♦ Classroom additions at Dodgen, Lovinggood and Dickerson middle schools.
♦ Classroom additions at Pebblebrook and Campbell high schools.
♦ Renovating Wheeler High School.
♦ Gym additions at Pebblebrook, South Cobb, Osborne and Sprayberry high schools.
♦ A theater addition at Campbell High School and a theater renovation at Lassiter High School.
♦ Renovations at Sprayberry and North Cobb high schools.
♦ New softball field and tennis court at Walton High School.
Education consultant James Wilson, a former Cobb and Fulton superintendent, said the district could also use SPLOST funds to build classrooms where needed based on the district’s enrollment.
As the district’s 10-year enrollment study projected more students in the Smyrna and south Cobb areas, Board Chairwoman Susan Thayer, who represents the Smyrna area, said she needs more details on how the district plans to accommodate that growth.
She said the potential replacement school for King Springs addresses part of the overcrowding problem, but more classrooms are needed in the area.
“I thought there was still a need for another school in Smyrna,” Thayer said.
Wilson said it is a difficult task to find suitable land to build new facilities in the southern part of the county.
“We’ll talk,” Thayer said.
Other board members also shared concerns, especially with the prospect of redistricting.
With the goal of addressing the district’s needs with the least disruption to the students, Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district is not proposing any major redistricting plans in SPLOST V, but there might be some tweaks.
“We treat it like the plague,” he said. “You never want it, but it’s sometimes necessary.”
Despite the district’s initial plans to consolidate Pebblebrook and Campbell high schools into one school, Wilson said he could not find a suitable site for the new school. The high schools could receive classroom additions on their current campuses in the proposed SPLOST.
Ragsdale said the schools’ additions will be similar to the partial rebuild at Osborne High School — an existing SPLOST project — meaning not all of the schools’ buildings will be demolished. He said the buildings that are not demolished will be renovated.
Board member Scott Sweeney said he was pleased with the proposed projects, but not all of the district’s needs can be addressed. He said finding suitable land for new schools is a challenge, so the proposed provisions for additions and modifications will help address the district’s anticipated student growth.
Board members Brad Wheeler, David Banks, Randy Scamihorn and Vice Chair David Chastain said they are still waiting on details before making a decision on whether to support the project list this early.
On the other hand, board member David Morgan said he is very satisfied with the project list as Harmony Leland was included.
Wednesday, the board discussed hiring Atlanta-based Cunningham Forehand Matthews & Moore Architects for $1.5 million to design the school. The architectural costs will come out of the district’s general budget, and SPLOST V money would reimburse the district.
The $1.5 million, which accounts for 5 percent of the project’s total cost, will come from a $10 million earmark previously set aside from the general fund to build the new school. The board already used $1.8 million of that sum in November to purchase 15 acres of land on Factory Shoals Road, Beverly Drive and Elizabeth Lane.
No work will begin until the new SPLOST passes.
Ragsdale said hiring the project’s architect shows the board’s commitment to build this school. He said the project will be construction ready the first month the district receives SPLOST V (the proposed SPLOST) money in 2019.
Ragsdale said it will be “one of the first projects coming out of the gate in SPLOST V.”
The board is set to vote on the architect on August 25.