The committee also will ask the district to stop schools from spending any excess artificial turf funds indefinitely.
Kimberley Euston, an east Cobb parent who is vice chair of the committee, proposed that the ninth-grade center project be delayed until at least 2013. District executive Doug Shepard and his staff recommended the new center be built at Harrison High School.
"For Harrison High School in Oct. 2007 there were 2,600 students," said Euston, who was appointed to the SPLOST oversight panel by school board member Scott Sweeney. "If you jump forward to Oct. 2009: 2,200 students. October of 2010: 2,100 students, and the projected numbers are 2,048. So you've got a trend of enrollment. So why would we put a new center at a school where enrollment is dropping off?"
Shepard said Harrison's enrollment was dropping because Allatoona High School was opened in fall 2008 and for the past three years it has been gaining students through redistricting from the other west Cobb high schools, including Harrison, Hillgrove and Kennesaw Mountain.
Voters approved the $18.3 million ninth-grade center in the SPLOST 3 project list, though the location was not specified.
Harrison was specifically chosen by Shepard and his staff, he said, because it has the most trailers of all the west Cobb high schools and is the most centrally located.
"The ninth grade center has capacity that was intended to relieve all these schools at the McKibben 2013," Shepard said referring to the district's growth study that was done in 2007. "And the capacity increase from the 9th grade center is actually 750 students. So you can just go around and collect - Allatoona is over capacity, Harrison is over capacity, Kennesaw Mountain is over capacity and even possibly Hillgrove, if necessary - and realize that 750 capacity addition would take care of all the concerns with one fell swoop."
"With one fell swoop of redistricting, which is brutal," said Virginia Gregory, an east Cobb parent who was appointed to the committee by David Morgan.
"That's going to have to be a serious consideration in the future," Shepard said. "But at the current moment, that's not a necessity."
Euston and John Williams, an Osborne High School parent who was appointed to the committee by board Chairwoman Alison Bartlett, both argued that the district should wait to build the 9th grade center until it has more solid numbers for the future enrollment of students in the west Cobb high schools.
But Morten Brante, who was appointed by Lynnda Eagle, said that he supports a 9th grade center at Harrison because it makes the most sense - even if it does mean his children would be part of a redistricting.
"I live in this area and know the area really well. All of the things that Doug has laid out here on why they picked it makes total sense to me," Brante said. "I live ... close to Harrison, so I know my kids who love Allatoona are going to get redistricted to Harrison. I would still vote for Harrison getting that 9th grade center."
The school board is expected to appoint an architect for the project during tonight's meeting, and school board member Tim Stultz - who is the board's liaison to the F&T panel - will brief his fellow board members on the committee's recommendations.
The F&T panel is merely advisory, and the school board is not obligated by anything the committee recommends. But school board chair Alison Bartlett is on record as saying the board should wait a few more years before deciding where to build the 9th grade center.
After an hour and a half debate on the land deal for the new Smyrna elementary school, the F&T committee was no closer to making a decision on whether the proposed site was the right place for a new $22 million elementary school.
Several board members, including Beth Pollard and Todd Herrington, both appointed by Stultz, and Euston, expressed concern over the cost of the 18-acre property for the school, which the district has proposed to buy for $7.8 million, or about $433,698 per acre.
Raymond Scott, a construction consultant for more than 35 years whom Bartlett named to the F&T panel, said he visited the site on Monday morning and noted several issues with the land, including a creek that would need to be piped, that will likely cost the district even more money to clear before it can begin building the school.
"If I were giving this spread to a developer, I would put a number of about $2 million on this rock and other site issues there, plus about $300,000 for that creek," Scott said. "It's going to push this price up over $10 million. Are we going to have enough to build the school?"
He estimated that the district will have to pay between $300,000 and $2.3 million for rock blasting and site preparation, which would put the cost closer to $700,000 per acre.
Shepard said Halpern Enterprises, which owns the site, disclosed all of the site information to the district. Shepard also said that there is a 60-day site evaluation period in which the district was allowed to review the site and make sure it has enough money to clear it before going through with the land deal. The district is not obligated to close on the deal until November, Shepard said, because the sales contract contains various time allowances.
And Gregory pointed out that the district doesn't have many other options in the Smyrna area.
"Common sense tells me that this has been public information since this SPLOST was pushed through the public," Gregory said. "If there were developers that had 15 acre or larger sites in the Smyrna area that they wanted to sell, they would have been beating the door down here. The SPLOST committee would have known about it, Doug would have known about it."
After putting forth four failed motions, including one by Brante to recommend that the school board move forward with the land purchase, the committee decided just to move on because it couldn't come to a consensus.
The F&T committee also voted, 8-2, to ask the administration to put a freeze on schools that have plans to spend excess money from their turf installation until the F&T committee can make a recommendation on how the excess funds should be used.
Williams has been advocating since last spring that the excess funds be pooled and then divided equally among all of the schools. But the committee agreed it wanted to revisit the issue before making a final recommendation, though no date for further discussion was set.