Sandy Springs City Council says it hasn’t heard anything from Fulton County Schools about a controversial proposal to replace Heards Ferry Elementary.
On April 2, council members went on record saying they wanted that to change. City Council unanimously passed a resolution asking for a direct line of communication with the Fulton County Board of Education.
“This is a resolution that I’m proposing because there’s talk of a possible new elementary school, and we’ve had no communication from the Fulton County Board of Education regarding the possible location of such a school, although there are vast implications for the city in terms of infrastructure needs,” Mayor Eva Galambos said before the vote.
The Heards Ferry Elementary School was on a list of projects to be funded by the Special Purpose Local Option sales tax. Voters in 2011 approved renewing the SPLOST. In addition to replacing the elementary school, Fulton County Schools also intends to add 26 classrooms to Riverwood International Charter School to address overcrowding. The current timeline calls for the elementary school construction to begin in 2015 and Riverwood school construction to begin in 2017.
Fulton County School officials haven’t announced whether Heards Ferry will be rebuilt in another location or whether it will be rebuilt on site.
The resolution passed by City Council poses a number of questions to Fulton Schools officials about Heards Ferry. The council wants to know how many students from outside of Riverwood’s school zone attend the school. Riverwood is a magnet program. The resolution also asks whether Heards Ferry can be renovated instead of replaced.
Fulton County Schools Deputy Superintendent of Operations Patrick Burke and District 3 Board of Education member Gail Dean held a March 27 public input meeting at Riverwood about the project.
Some residents were frustrated by the lack of answers. Burke said he could not disclose potential locations for a new elementary school due to Georgia’s Open Meetings laws. Under state law, government entities can discuss the purchase and sale of real estate in closed meetings known as executive sessions.
“Under Georgia law, these are things that are typically discussed in a closed session,” Burke said. “Why? Because as taxpayers, if you look around the metro region, these things drive up price.”
Sandy Springs Planning Commission Chairman Lee Duncan lashed out at Burke’s inability to give further information. He complained that the Fulton school board had “completely stonewalled” the Planning Commission. Duncan said the Planning Commission wanted to have more input in the process of replacing the school.
Burke tried to cut Duncan off so the input meeting could resume. Duncan objected.
“I’m going to finish and, until hell freezes over, you’re going stand there and listen to me,” Duncan said.
Shelley and Jeff Paulen attended the meeting and said they’ve seen surveyors close to their home near the Riley Place subdivision. The subdivision is located at the intersection of Powers Ferry Road and Riley Place, NW. Other locations inside of I-285 are also rumored locations for the school.
The Paulens said school traffic is hard to tolerate at present. Moving a school closer to them will only make matters worse, they said.
“We’re just worried about where it’s going to go,” Jeff Paulen said.