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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Fulton officials look at massive school building, renovation work.

By Nancy Badertscher
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Fulton County school officials may ask voters to approve a sales tax extension that would allow them to close eight schools and build six in their place.

The plan, which was presented Tuesday to the Fulton School Board, also would commit about $310 million to classroom additions, renovations and modifications at all but 16 of the county's newest schools.

Much of the program details are yet to be ironed out. But Susan Hale, the school system spokesman, said the system would likely try to build any new school before tearing down the old one to minimize the disruption to students. At last count, the new construction plans could affect about 3,900 students.

School boards in Fulton, DeKalb, Decatur and Atlanta are moving forward with plans for a sales tax referendum in November. All four currently have five-year SPLOSTs (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes) that are set to expire in June 2012.

Patrick Burke, Fulton's chief of operations, told school board members Tuesday that a five-year sales tax extension, if approved by voters, is expected to generate about $912 million, $281.5 million of which could be dedicated to new school construction.

The proposal that Burke presented calls for:

-- Closing and replacing four schools: Elementary schools Esther Jackson in Roswell, Heards Ferry in Sandy Springs and Gullatt in Union City and McNair Middle School in College Park. All the new schools except Heards Ferry likely will be built at their current site. Heards Ferry would be located elsewhere to make room for an addition at Riverwood International Charter High School.

-- Closing and tearing down Mt. Olive, Oak Knoll and Harriette Tubman elementary schools and tearing down the already-closed College Park Elementary School in the College Park-East Point areas. All are older -- about 50 years old each -- smaller and would cost more to renovate, Burke said. They will be replaced with two state-of-the-art schools, likely at two of the existing school sites, he said.

The school system developed its SPLOST project list after two consulting firms conducted assessments of the schools based on their physical conditions and educational adequacy, Burke said.

The current SPLOST was forecast to bring in about $900 million, but is bringing in about $700 million, he said.

About $189 million in the new SPLOST would be earmarked for school technology, under the plan given to the board and slated for approval later this month.

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