Officials: Board has $10M to purchase land to build schools
by Hannah Morgan
October 29, 2013 12:00 AM | 3067 views | 5 5 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — The Cobb Board of Education has about $10 million it may use to purchase about 30 acres of land on which to build two new elementary schools, district officials say.

Construction would occur in the 2016-17 school year if all goes as planned, said Chris Ragsdale, the district’s deputy superintendent of operational support.

Because state law requires new elementary schools to be constructed on at least 15 acres, the 11 schools that made Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s short list for rebuilding will have to be built at new locations.

The board is expected to select the two new schools by its Dec. 11 meeting, said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn. Each has a construction budget of about $23 million.

None of the schools on the list have the required amount of adequate land and space, Ragsdale said, although the district can apply for a waiver to rebuild a school on a smaller plot of land or current school property if it choses.

While district officials say it’s too early to predict what schools will be rebuilt, board members were concerned with the length of time it could take the district to find and purchase viable land at last Thursday’s board meeting, which pushed back an initial vote Scamihorn had hoped to make.

Scamihorn hoped the board would select the two schools by Nov. 13, but protests from fellow board members, including Kathleen Angelucci, bumped the vote to the Dec. 11 meeting, in order to give more time for board members to visit schools and make prudent decisions.

Board members David Banks and Scott Sweeney were concerned that the district would need many months of hard work to find and purchase quality land for the new schools, a process that is unpredictable and premature to start worrying about, Ragsdale said at last week’s meeting.

The board will first focus on selecting the two schools to be built. It is too early to discuss applying for state waivers and locating new property, Scamihorn said.

“Before I worry about the land I have to make a decision about what schools will be rebuilt,” he said.

Hinojosa shortlisted the following schools for rebuilding:

• Argyle Elementary School;

• Belmont Hills Elementary and LaBelle Elementary to be consolidated, relocated and rebuilt;

• Brumby Elementary to be relocated and rebuilt;

• Clay Elementary and Harmony Leland Elementary to be redistricted, relocated and consolidated, and Riverside Elementary, currently a 2-5 school, and Riverside Primary, a K-1 school, to be consolidated into one school;

• Mountain View Elementary to be relocated and rebuilt;

• Powers Ferry Elementary and Eastvalley Elementary to be consolidated, relocated and rebuilt;

It is an impractical use of the limited SPLOST IV funds to build a new school that enrolls less than about 1,000 students, Ragsdale said, which is why many of the schools on the list are proposed for consolidation.

Parents at Eastvalley Elementary voiced concerns last week about building new elementary schools the size of high schools, and were worried their young children would lose the small community offered at their current schools.

Carol Murray, who has a kindergartener at Eastvalley Elementary, said an elementary school of more than 1,000 students was too big, that she and other parents enjoy, “the fact that we know all the teachers and the teachers know us. There is a greater sense of community in a smaller environment.”

Hinojosa said there was no evidence to how well students performed in bigger vs. smaller-sized schools at Thursday’s meeting.

“I don’t think size should matter as much as what is the atmosphere of the school,” Scamihorn said.

What was most important was selecting the schools with the most need by December, he added, as there was very little money to solve the problems of so many schools.

There is $10 million allocated for purchasing land to build the new schools on, with some additional money still available from SPLOST III, Ragsdale said, although he could not give an exact amount.

The district estimates each new elementary school will cost about $23.3 million, Ragsdale said.

There are 68 elementary schools in Cobb County, and the eleven schools included on Hinojosa’s shortlist were selected with the following criteria in mind: the number of portable classrooms, the last construction done on the school, if the district would need to buy or sell land to rebuild the school, the school’s enrollment, the capacity of the schools, the age of facility and the total amount of previous SPLOST funds spent on the school, Ragsdale said.

Once both options are voted on, the district will begin searching for land, and if it cannot find land at a decent price, or in a reasonable area, they will consider applying for a state waiver, Ragsdale said.

“Unless there is something there that is really strict, I wouldn’t think the state would care where we build it unless we build it over a volcano,” Scamihorn said.

Comments
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EastCobbVoter
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October 30, 2013
This is a good example of how even well-intentioned laws lead to government waste and overspending.

Rebuilding the schools in place, even completely tearing them down but staying on the same land would be much cheaper. At this point there isn't a whole lot of land left in Cobb county for development. No doubt the taxpayers will have to pay big money to squeeze two new schools in somewhere, and the parents may not be real happy with the locations either.
Not Always the Case
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November 01, 2013
Relocating a school does make a lot of sense...Take Milford or Brumby elementary schools for example...

The commercial value of the current school land likely exceeds replacement land cost in a more suitable setting for the school.

Milford is located at the Austell Rd. and Windy Hill Road intersection. Brumby is smack in the middle of commercial properties and on heavily trafficked Powers Ferry Road.
Comes First
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October 29, 2013
When it comes to the building the children of the CCSD are housed the FIRST concern should be safety. And I don't mean just doors that locked. When you have schools with leaking roofs, mold and mildew, NO student or employee should be in a building with those conditions.

So if any of these conditions exist in any school that is left standing, they should be corrected immediately, regardless of what schools are consolidated, torn down, and/or built. There should be no discussion or compromise on this.

Get It Done!
anonymous
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October 29, 2013
Mr. Ragsdale, education is not practical. A building with over a 1,000 students is no longer a school but rather a factory. Please limit your voice to what you know about.
Clueless again
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October 29, 2013
The superintendent is clueless again. Smaller schools have less issues due to the community and teachers knowing each other well. Large schools have more behavior issues, crowding in hallways, and other issues. Cobb County needs to sell off the Martha Moore building if it isn't using that land. Too many schools are run down and need to be rebuilt and sell the land. I am so glad my children have graduated because CCSD is a sinking ship!
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