Work on new classrooms, a new gym and a new theater at Pebblebrook High School will soon begin after the Cobb school board’s unanimous thumbs-up to the $48.5 million contract Thursday.
The projects are expected to be complete in September 2022.
The board also approved a one-month spending resolution, carrying the district through July, when school systems will be able to evaluate how much money they’ll be allotted in the state’s fiscal 2021 budget.
Pebblebrook’s new digs
At 2,423 students, Pebblebrook High School is already more than 600 students over capacity. The new 58-unit classroom building to be constructed will displace nine existing classrooms, bringing the school’s total from 94 to 143, according to Marc Smith, the district’s chief technology and operations officer.
That means the school will go from a capacity of 1,812 students to 2,787 students, he said. Temporary classroom units will be set up at Pebblebrook to accommodate the displaced classrooms.
District officials say the school’s new performing arts center will have 750 seats and will be an addition to the campus that will expand the performing arts magnet school’s facilities. The existing theater on the campus will also remain.
School board members welcomed the new theater to the school they said deserved the facility. Pebblebrook, home to the Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts, has propelled many students to a national stage, including on Broadway.
“I’m sure the ... Pebblebrook community will be happy about that,” school board member Jaha Howard said. “It’s just a sign of confidence in what’s going on with that program and at that location, so (I’m) just really happy about the entire school and the leadership there.”
“That theater ... needs some bells and whistles for that program,” added board Chairman Brad Wheeler. “That’s a premiere program that deserves all the stuff that they need to have.”
Howard also noted that there have historically been concerns about having enough space for students to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Parents have over the last year complained to the school board that Pebblebrook students don’t have enough time to make it from one class to the next or to eat lunch because of the school’s overcrowding.
To Howard’s request for information on the status of lunchroom and other facility space, given expected growth at the school over the next five years, Ragsdale said “the growth is always taken into consideration when the design is done.”
He said space in facilities including lunchrooms, media centers and the number of bathrooms are governed by the number of students enrolled at a school or expected to be in a certain year.
“We take very seriously the proper planning,” he said, adding that a new demographic study outlining expected enrollment in the district will be coming soon. “We have made sure that the appropriate size has been put into the design for Pebblebrook.”
The approved construction contract was awarded to Bowen & Watson, Inc. Money will come from the latest iteration of the voter-approved special 1% sales tax for education, or Ed-SPLOST.
One-month spending resolution
Normally, school boards adopt a district budget prior to the start of the fiscal year, beginning July 1. But a break in lawmaker’s 2020 legislative session coupled with 11% cuts expected across state agencies because of COVID-19 has meant budget approval at the state Capitol was delayed.
Brad Johnson, Cobb schools’ chief financial officer, said the district’s one-month spending resolution cannot exceed one-twelfth of last year’s total budget. Last year, the district’s budget was about $1.3 billion.
The one-month spending resolution is expected to include nearly $108 million in revenue and $111.2 million in expenditures for the month of July.
Johnson said executive staff plan to present at a meeting next month a tentative budget for fiscal 2021.