Powers Ferry not counting on rebuild; Elementary school slated to be consolidated with Eastvalley
by Hannah Morgan
November 17, 2013 11:15 PM | 4753 views | 8 8 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Powers Ferry Elementary, on Powers Ferry Road, just off of South Marietta Parkway SE, is among the 11 schools on the list to be rebuilt or consolidated with SPLOST IV funds within the next two to three years. The Cobb Board of Education is expected to vote to select two schools to be rebuilt at its December meeting, said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn. Powers Ferry is slated to be consolidated with Eastvalley Elementary, a merger backed by school board member David Banks, but not by the schools’ parents. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Powers Ferry Elementary, on Powers Ferry Road, just off of South Marietta Parkway SE, is among the 11 schools on the list to be rebuilt or consolidated with SPLOST IV funds within the next two to three years. The Cobb Board of Education is expected to vote to select two schools to be rebuilt at its December meeting, said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn. Powers Ferry is slated to be consolidated with Eastvalley Elementary, a merger backed by school board member David Banks, but not by the schools’ parents.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Powers Ferry Elementary school was built in 1951, sits on 10 acres, has a capacity for 423 students and has eight trailers, according to the school district and Principal Rattana Inthirathvongsy. The Title 1 school feeds 93 percent of its 447 students free and reduced-cost lunches, and is roughly 60 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and 10 percent white and Asian, Inthirathvongsy said.
Powers Ferry Elementary school was built in 1951, sits on 10 acres, has a capacity for 423 students and has eight trailers, according to the school district and Principal Rattana Inthirathvongsy. The Title 1 school feeds 93 percent of its 447 students free and reduced-cost lunches, and is roughly 60 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and 10 percent white and Asian, Inthirathvongsy said.
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11-15-13 -- Powers Ferry Elementary School is one of those Cobb schools hoping to be rebuilt. Staff/Jeff Stanton
11-15-13 -- Powers Ferry Elementary School is one of those Cobb schools hoping to be rebuilt. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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 MARIETTA — Powers Ferry Elementary School Principal Rattana Inthirathvongsy would be happy to have a new school building for his students and staff, but he is not counting on it. 
Powers Ferry, on Powers Ferry Road, just off of South Marietta Parkway SE, is among the 11 schools on the list to be rebuilt or consolidated with SPLOST IV funds within the next two to three years. The Cobb Board of Education is expected to vote to select two schools to be rebuilt at its December meeting, said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn. 
 
Consolidation fears

Powers Ferry is slated to be consolidated with Eastvalley Elementary, a merger backed by school board member David Banks, but not by the schools’ parents. 
Parents fear their close-knit community would be shattered if a new school is built to accommodate upwards of 800 students, they have said at board meetings. 
“We can’t afford to build neighborhood schools anymore,” Banks told Eastvalley parents at a meeting Oct. 23 at the school, where he was met with resistance from parents. 
Carol Murray, a parent of a kindergartener at Eastvalley, said she cherishes the fact her principal, Karen Wacker, knows the names of many of the students and parents at the school, and fears a big school would make that impossible. 
 
Old school building with new additions
Powers Ferry Elementary school was built in 1951, sits on 10 acres, has a capacity for 423 students and has eight trailers, according to the school district and Inthirathvongsy. 
The Title 1 school feeds 93 percent of its 447 students free and reduced-cost lunches, and is roughly 60 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic and 10 percent white and Asian, Inthirathvongsy said. 
At least 12 countries are represented at the school, he said. 
The school has about a 30 percent transiency rate, he said, which has come down from close to 50 percent about five years ago. 
As he stood in a second-grade classroom last Monday morning, he lamented the lack of outlets the classrooms had in them, an issue that has been fixed with years of “Band-Aids on top of Band-Aids to make it work,” including power strips and plenty of extension cords. 
His teachers and staff struggle to find enough room to store books and supplies, and three teachers have been forced to use storage rooms as office space, Inthirathvongsy said. 
“It would be nice to have more space, but there is no doubt about it, we utilize every closet” at the school, said ESL teacher Annie Mann, who uses a storage closet as an office. 
While the inside is cramped, the school has had about $5.25 million worth of recent improvements with SPLOST funds, including new flooring in the gym, according to district budgets.
Powers Ferry has been lucky to have recent support from local groups to improve some of the issues that have materialized as the school has aged, Inthirathvongsy said. 
Four years ago, members of Mount Bethel United Methodist Church painted the hallways of the school, and a parent who worked for General Electric helped the school get $16,000 worth of improvements, including new shelving units, the installation of an outdoor classroom and butterfly garden and a state-of-the-art robotics lab within the last month, he said. 
These improvements will last the school a few more years, Inthirathvongsy said, and while there are some issues he would like to see remedied, like adding extra parking spaces for teachers and installing insulated windows, his school has adapted to the building it has.
The school’s board member thinks differently. 
 “I want to rebuild Powers Ferry because it is 62 years old, has all kinds of problems, portable classrooms,” Banks said.  “The walls are starting to crumble, and the molding around the gym is rusted out.” 
 
Similar situation
Brown Elementary School was redistricted, merged and consolidated with students from Belmont Hills Elementary at Argyle Elementary this year into the new Smyrna Elementary School, said Smyrna Principal Brett Ward. 
Ward was principal at Brown Elementary, a school of 280 students, and now oversees a school of 840 students, he said. 
The transition for his staff and students wasn’t as rocky as parents at Eastvalley are anticipating.
“You just have to work harder at building that small school feeling,” he said.
Smyrna Elementary has scheduled plenty of events for families to get involved, like family movie nights, a fall festival and a Thanksgiving lunch, Ward said. 
“It takes a lot of work to learn the names of all the families and kids,” he said. 
“But having a larger school means you have a lot more support, a lot more teachers, a lot more parents’ support.”
Inthirathvongsy said he enjoys his small school’s community feel, but he and the students, parents, teachers and staff would “adapt” if they were consolidated into a larger school. 
Teachers are wary that a merger will happen because nothing with the deal is certain. 
“I was surprised,” that Powers Ferry made the list, he said. “But ultimately it is the board’s decision.” 
Comments
(8)
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Wow! Rude
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November 18, 2013
I am saddened that the East Valley parents think they and their children are so much better than the students and parents at Powers Ferry. I am saddened for your children that you are raising them to think they are better than the less fortunate. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your school will survive and I hope the board consolidated Powers Ferry, East Valley and Brumby. Boy, that would throw you into total madness, wouldn't it?
Ashamed?
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November 19, 2013
Do you have a child at Eastvalley or at Powers Ferry Elementary? Do you know any parents from Eastvalley or Powers Ferry? Do you even have an inkling of the ethnic diversity of Eastvalley or are you making assumptions that it is the "typical" East Cobb school based on your own ignorance? Obviously, or you wouldn't spout such drivel regarding how parents are "raising" their children. Ashamed of what? Ashamed that these parents care and advocate for their children to attend a small community school where they are nurtured as well as taught? Ashamed that these parents are involved in their school community and care what will happen to it if forced to merge into a large mega-school? Bigger is not always better, especially with regard to elementary school education. Mind this...mathematically negating the need for desperately required Title 1 funding by rezoning or merging 2 such disparate school bodies would serve a great disservice to those students who truly need the extra emphasis and programs that Title 1 funding brings. So what if you have a big, bright, shiny, new school to send all of these kids to if you don't have the RESOURCES needed to actually educate them. Cobb County certainly isn't going to provide it...
Mary M.
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November 18, 2013
I am a Powers Ferry parent and went to the East Valley meeting. I did not say I was a powers ferry parent because I felt intimidatd there. I am sorry they are worried but something has to be done about our building.
Intimidated?
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November 20, 2013
You felt intimidated as an adult walking into a room of 200 adults? Think about a 5 YEAR OLD CHILD walking into a school of 1200 students plus faculty and staff. THAT is why the Eastvalley community is objecting to this proposal! I'm all for PF getting a new building, but think it can be done without lumping in EV into the equation. Since you were at the EV meeting you are well aware that Banks made the proposal with ANY research into our communities. It is one idea (his idea) and I think other solutions should be researched and proposed.
Michelle Sollicito
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December 15, 2013
I am an EastValley parent and I felt totally ashamed at the attitudes some EastValley parents expressed at the meeting. There are definitely some who are blatantly racist and others who are snobs and believe their kids to be so much better than "apartment kids" or "title 1 kids" or "free lunch kids". Others thinly disguise such attitudes by saying their concern is about "property values" but we all know what that all really means. I hate those attitudes probably as much as you do as a Powers Ferry parent and I am ashamed to be associated with such attitudes. Luckily we are not all like that although there is quite a large faction that is. I am sorry you were offended but know that many EastValley parents are also offended by this attitude too. However, I am against the merger because I worry about losing the "small school environment" that I believe is important at the Elementary school level. Unfortunately the "East Cobb Snobs" section of parents within EastValley school are probably going to fall over themselves in adoration of David Banks if he ever puts his proposal out there, which is rumored to include a STEM campus including not only the new combined Elementary school but also the rebuilt East Cobb Middle School and Wheeler too possibly.
an excellent school
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November 18, 2013
East Valley is an excellent school. A merger is not the right thing to do. It will destroy this wonderful school. Very unfortunate.
anonymous
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November 18, 2013
I can't wait to see all the uneducated rants about the stadium taking school money (not). I wish the school ranters would go out and study the budget of Cobb County and think before they speak.
B. Reynolds
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November 18, 2013
Well, there goes the neighborhood.
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