By Katie Fallon
Several local public and private schools started the new school year with multiple renovation and expansion projects.
For Fulton County’s public schools in Sandy Springs, the renovations and additions were funded by revenues from the School Board’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, a referendum most recently approved in March. SPLOST was first passed in 1997 and renewed in 2002 before this year’s special election.
At High Point Elementary School, the Greenland Road campus held a ribbon cutting on Sept. 11 to celebrate the completion of its new 13-classroom wing, which was ready for students on the first day of school. The wing, which also came with additional parking, includes five fifth grade classrooms, five fourth grade classrooms and three kindergarten classrooms. It serves roughly 250 students.
The addition of the new wing, which cost approximately $8 million, also allowed High Point to reduce its number of portable classrooms from 14 to 9.
High Point principal Lisa Silverstein said the expansion provided much needed relief from overcrowding, but that the school is not completely out of the woods.
“We’re pretty much at capacity now,” Silverstein said.
The principal said the completion of the new wing brought the end of a long road and a construction project that took not quite a year to complete.
“Any time you’re building a new building, there are small trials and tribulations,” she said. “But good things come to those who wait.”
Area school board representative Gail Dean said the project was particularly smooth in the two most important respects.
“They were on schedule and they were on budget,” she said.
High Point’s assistant principal Renee Prior said the classrooms in the new wing also received some technology upgrades not currently present in the rest of the school. Each new classroom received a flat screen television and the wing itself got its own teacher workroom. The classrooms also have the capacity to be divided into two smaller rooms.
Dean is also excited about the even larger expansion that has begun at Ridgeview Charter School, which houses grades six through eight. The Ridgeview expansion includes accommodations for 600 students.
Specifically, SPLOST III will fund a new, 70,000 square foot facility with 39 classrooms. A complete renovation of the existing school is also being completed on the 140,000 square foot interior. Ridgeview is also receiving a new front entry, a re-routing of traffic flow, resurfacing and repairs to its track and tennis courts, an upgrade to its camera security system and the replacement of 74 windows with new frames and insulation.
Similarly, renovations have also been completed at Riverwood High School, North Springs Charter School of Arts and Sciences, Wooodland Charter, Spalding Drive Charter and Heards Ferry elementary Schools.
SPLOST III will also fund numerous renovations for every public school in Sandy Springs.
“Every school in Sandy Springs has benefited from SPLOST,” Dean said.
However, it is not just the public schools that are celebrating expansion this year.
At the Schenck School on Mount Paran Road, a completely new, 20,000 square foot addition was finished in May. It includes the new kindergarten, a lunch room, science lab, larger library and an occupational therapy room that includes a rock climbing wall and a zip line.
As soon as school let out at the end of the last school year, the existing building at the school was completely gutted and renovations began. During the summer, the construction went relatively smoothly, although the school did have to postpone its regular school year start date for 2007-2008 by about two weeks.
Head of School Gena Calloway said Sept. 10 brought both a new school year and a new school for Schenck students, who attend the private school for its curriculum specifically geared towards students with dyslexia.
“Everything was ready and the first week went great,” Calloway said.
In fact, Sept 14 was the last day general contractors New South Construction were scheduled to be on campus.
Elsewhere in Sandy Springs, the coming years will see much more expansion that will benefit the elementary school population in particular.
On May 3, the school system celebrated the groundbreaking at the site of the next elementary school in Sandy Springs. The 13.8 acre site is located off Cliftwood Drive between Lake Forrest Drive and Sandy Springs Circle. This site was purchased through SPLOST II funds, which totaled approximately $14,286,116 for 34 parcels of land.
The three-story building will no doubt bring relief to the elementary schools that are either approaching or at their capacity for student enrollment. The facility will be 126,320 square feet and have an enrollment capacity of 850 students. Similarly, the site will also have expansion capabilities to accommodate 1,000 students. With 56 total classrooms, the as-yet-unnamed school will open in August, 2008.
Not long after the groundbreaking off Lake Forrest Drive, the school system announced the purchase of a 23.66-acre tract of land on the corner of Roswell and Ison Road that will be developed as Sandy Springs’ seventh elementary school.
Although it will be built with SPLOST III funds, the school’s land was bought for a price of $455,000 per acre.
“We are extremely pleased to close on this piece of property,” school board president Julia Bernath said in May. “We are appreciative of the patience and cooperation we have received from parents as we have dealt with [overcrowding] and we are elated that we will soon have much-needed relief.”
For more information on expansion plans for Fulton County schools in Sandy Springs, visit www.fultonschools.org.