Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said the academy’s location, number of students, teachers, staff, transportation, types of courses and operating costs have yet to be determined.
Assuming voters approve the tax in March, it could be several years before the projects are bid out, he said.
“A lot can happen in that time frame, including enrollment shifts. It would be irresponsible for us to identify a school today, and then, say, three years from now when the project is bid, realize that enrollment or other factors have made other schools a much higher priority,” he said. “We also have to consider the availability of land.”
Hinojosa said not identifying locations gives the district “flexibility down the road to ensure that the public’s tax dollars are spent where they are most needed.”
Chief academic officer Judi Jones said the district would need to hire a principal, an assistant principal, a counselor, three custodians, and possibly library, technology and lunchroom personnel.
Total salaries for these positions weren’t available.
Additionally, Jones said the cost to run each of the several academic programs, or clusters, at the academy could be between $150,000 and $200,000 annually, but said the costs could be offset by state grant money and business partnerships.
Jones said possible clusters offered at the academy include architecture, construction and transportation, health care, STEM and computer information science.
Jones said the high school schedule could be used by students on either a traditional or block schedule and that 11th and 12th graders would probably attend the school for half of their school day.
During a recent school board meeting, Hinojosa pointed out that career pathways are part of the goals board members set for him when he started in 2011.
“We didn’t come up with this on a whim. Our vision is ‘Empowering Dreams for the Future’ and our mission is ‘Creating and Supporting Pathways for Success,’” he said.
The vision and mission were created recently when the district revised their Strategic Plan.
Jones said that if the SPLOST passes, the district will conduct a needs assessment over the next two years, prepare for building the facility following that and possibly constructing and staffing it between 2015 and 2017.
“Nothing is set in stone,” she said.
Lance Lamberton of Austell, who serves as president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association, said he is concerned about the district proposing a fourth SPLOST and believes the career academy is one of the more controversial standout items on the list.
“I don’t feel like we need to have it embedded in the entire curricula of the district,” he said.
His problem with the career academy is that the district hasn’t released the details of transportation, land cost, maintenance costs or exactly what kind of student the school would attract.
“Why not incorporate this into existing high schools?” he asked. “Those programs should be built in and embedded into all of the high schools rather than have the separate stand-alone facility.”
Lamberton also has a problem with the district not talking about staffing the academy until January.
“That’s only two months prior to vote. These things need to be worked out before they are put before the voters,” he said.
In regards to SPLOST IV as a whole, Lamberton said, “They are creating enough projects to spend all that money. What they should do is determine the real needs and requirements for the district, then put before the district that cost.”
The project is one of many proposed in the SPLOST IV project list, which will include collections in the 1 percent sales tax between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2018, if approved by Cobb voters in March.