MARIETTA — Cobb County School District employees, as well as the school board, are about six months away from reporting to work in a brand new office building, according to Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale.
The $21.5 million construction contract with Cooper & Company General Contractors, approved by the school board in April, set in motion the construction that turned what used to be a parking lot into a construction zone.
The school district’s new three-story central office expansion, which will be attached to the 514 Glover St., Marietta building where school board meetings are held, will house district staff that currently work in offices at that location.
Ragsdale said his is one of the many district executive offices that will be relocated to the three-story building under construction.
The superintendent said the new building, built using money from a special voter-approved 1% sales tax for education, will also house a new board meeting room, open office concepts with cubicles and dry-erase-safe walls and “collaborative space.”
“Everybody is not going to be in what you would consider a standard and closed office with a door,” he said.
The central office expansion project was a necessity, Ragsdale said, given the deteriorating condition of the current building. The 514 building was constructed as a warehouse in 1975, and the growth in number of staff over the years had begun to create an unsafe work environment, according to district officials.
“It was becoming an electrical hazard in the current 514 building, because we’d maxed out the service to the building, and it was just becoming dangerous,” Ragsdale said. “It was never built to house as many people as we have in it with the stress and requirements of the electrical system. ... We’d reached the confines with which we could truly operate in this building that we had.”
Once staff are moved into the new building, the old building will be renovated to fit the style of the expansion and will receive much-needed electrical, plumbing and HVAC updates, Ragsdale said. Once renovations are complete, by summer of 2021, the district staff working at the 440 Glover St. building just up the road will move in, he said.
The 440 building houses the district’s finance and SPLOST departments, among others. Ragsdale said plans for the future of the 440 building have not yet been decided, though a training lab downstairs will still be used.
Ragsdale added that consolidating much of the district’s executive staff on one campus will make collaboration and meetings much easier.
School board member Randy Scamihorn seconded that sentiment. Scamihorn said the district has been leasing office space in the area around the district offices when it could be using that money for students, teachers and facilities.
“This saves us a lot of money,” he said. “We had to have the office space, but that money was going out without return. ... I’m tickled pink. I also want to stress that students are No. 1, but our staff has to have an area to work and want to come to work. We want to be prudent with our customers’ (taxpayers’) money, but we also want to make sure that we have an adequate working environment.”
Even closer to completion is the school district’s secondary data center, adjacent the 514 Glover St. location, according to the superintendent.
The data center, a $4.5 million construction contract which was approved in July, is expected to be complete by this spring, Ragsdale said. He said the center will serve as a backup to the primary data center located in Kennesaw and will provide some disaster recovery ability in case of emergency at that location.
District officials say the center will be responsible for internet and intranet connectivity to and from all schools, as well as daily functional operations like telephone communications.