Video: School Board Postpones West Cobb Ninth Grade Center
Thursday night's 4-3 vote came after much protest from board member Lynnda Eagle, who said the district is "obligated" to complete the SPLOST project at Harrison High.
It looks like West Cobb will still be getting a ninth grade center, but following Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting, the matter is now a question of when.
The board was scheduled to vote on $14.5 million worth of renovations and additions to Harrison High, including the center, emergency generator replacement, track repair and resurfacing, theater repairs and sports lighting. The projects were approved by Cobb voters as part of the 2008 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
But following a motion for approval by Harrison's board member, Lynnda Eagle, and a second by David Banks, Alison Bartlett proposed removing the ninth grade center from the project list and bidding out all the less costly projects separately.
“The fact that (the ninth grade center and other projects) have been tied together has really tied our hands,” she said.
You can see a live blog from Thursday's meeting here.
Throughout the meeting, Bartlett noted more crucial, countywide needs funded by SPLOST, including maintenance, fire protection, school buses and preventing teacher layoffs. Eagle questioned whether all the projects Bartlett described were part of SPLOST.
After a lengthy discussion that included all seven board members, Bartlett gained the 4-3 majority she needed from members Kathleen Angelucci, David Morgan and Tim Stultz. Joining Eagle and Banks in dissenting was board Chairman Scott Sweeney.
Should the board have approved the center Thursday? Tell us in the comments.
Harrison has five “floating” teachers without classrooms and 11 trailers, and hasn’t had any major renovations in its 21 years, Eagle said. Freshman centers, like those already at North Cobb and South Cobb high schools, ease the transition from middle school, she added.
Her main argument, though, was the center’s approval by Cobb voters in the 2008 SPLOST referendum.
“There are so many reasons why this needs to be done, but most of all, our community voted on it, and we’re obligated to do that,” she said.
Stultz said SPLOST projects don’t have to have a set timetable. “I don’t think that anybody is saying that the ninth grade center at Harrison is never going to be built. … The timing of when the ninth grade center at Harrison is built I think is the point of the matter.”
Bartlett suggested waiting to see how much SPLOST money is left after other crucial projects are finished.
But Eagle said that construction costs are starting to rise, which would make the center more costly in the future. She also said “arbitrarily” pulling projects once they’ve been put out for bid could possibly harm relationships with contractors—something she confirmed with county school officials.
Angelucci and Bartlett questioned the need for expansion at Harrison based on the school’s declining student population and the stagnant growth district-wide.
Deputy Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said Harrison has seen a decline for the past five years, mainly based on the 2008 addition of Allatoona High to the north.
Eagle said, though, that the 11 trailers are “full of students every single day” and that she expects the school to see growth soon.
The $14.5 million bid for the entire project came from Swofford Construction in Austell and was scheduled to be completed by July 10, 2013. The complete list of recommended smaller projects that are suggested be put out for new bids includes:
- Sports lighting
- Emergency generator replacement
- Corridor flooring replacement
- Site plumbing renovations
- Track repair and resurfacing (Eagle called the current track “an accident waiting to happen.”)
- Practice and baseball field renovations
- Theater renovations
- Tank-less water heaters
Officials said they won't be started this summer because more architectural work and planning will be needed before they go back out to bid.