By C. Julia Nelson
cjnelson@reporternewspapers.net

Teachers, parents, PTA and board members and especially elementary students from Sandy Springs can breathe easy now.

The proposed elementary school on Ison Road will be built over the next year and open in August, 2009.

“You’ll shortly see some signs along Roswell Road and on Ison Road announcing the construction of our newest elementary school, which will be completed in 2009,” Julia Bernath, Fulton County Board of Education president and Dist. 7 representative said.

The announcement was made at Bernath’s community meeting on May 9 at North Springs Charter School. Bernath said the board agreed to move forward on the project during its May 6 work session.

“The superintendent recognized this was a need for the community and the board graciously agreed that this was an important step to take,” she said.

A community-wide information meeting will be held in June, but a specific date has not yet been scheduled. It will be set when a construction contractor has been selected and can be made available to respond to questions from the community, Bernath said.

The new elementary school will provide relief from severe overcrowding at Spalding Drive Elementary School as well as Dunwoody Springs Charter and Woodland Elementary Schools.

Spalding principal Christine Young is thrilled and relieved to know the school will be built on time.

“When Ison Road opens the enrollment for Spalding decreases from approximately 700 to approximately 450 students,” Young said. “The reduction in student enrollment will allow for the removal of all but two of the trailers to be removed from the Spalding site.”

Currently, all students in grades two and three at Spalding are taught in one of nine trailers outside the main facility due to overcrowding issues. When the Lake Forrest school opens this fall, combined with the opening of Ison in 2009, a vast majority of the overcrowding issues in Sandy Springs elementary schools will be resolved.

Surrounding neighbors have questioned site hazards, but according to DeeAnn Weprinsky, a member of the superintendent’s advisory council who lives in Sandy Springs and has been working on a community committee focused on the Ison school project said the board has satisfactorily answered every question the community has posed relative to safety issues. She offered her thanks to the board as well.

“It is a safe site,” Weprinsky said. “(The board) has done all sorts of things to make it safe; they have been very meticulous in making sure everything is done properly.”

Bernath reiterated that the board took careful consideration of the community’s concerns in creating a safe campus and in making the final decision to keep the project on schedule.

“It’s going to be a great school,” Weprinsky said. “It’s a beautiful plan and it’s all been well thought out. It’s a safe place for children to be.”

The Ison school will be similar in design to the newly constructed elementary school on Lake Forrest Drive, with a three-floor schematic design. Both will be 130,000-square-foot schools with the capacity to hold 850 students.

They will include 54 classrooms, a media center, playgrounds and athletic fields. The Lake Forrest Drive school is scheduled to open this August.

The Ison school construction is being funded with Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) III dollars and is projected to cost about $29 million.

Bernath said the board has been working in tandem with the city of Sandy Springs to keep the project on schedule.

“The city’s been very cooperative (in issuing) permits… so we can get this school done in a timely manner,” she said.

Area Superintendent Leonard Box expressed his appreciation at the community meeting for the board’s due diligence in moving the project forward.

“This really has been a move by the board that is truly been beneficial to Sandy Springs,” Box said.

In an effort to establish a district-wide policy to better identify construction priorities, the board has created a committee to examine how to use a facilities condition index on a systemic level in the future. A recommendation to the board has not yet been made but is in the works.