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Eastvalley Parents Express SPLOST Concerns

The future of four older East Cobb elementary schools dominated discussion at a town hall meeting Monday.

The proposed "SPLOST IV" project list for the Cobb County School District includes nearly $70 million in funding to fully replace three unspecified elementary schools.

At a town hall meeting Monday night, parents representing one East Cobb elementary school wanted to know if the "TBD" designation might apply to them.

And if it doesn't, they wondered how money would be found for improvements to a facility that's more than 50 years old. 

Parents with children attending Eastvalley Elementary School didn't get all the answers they were looking for at the meeting, which was held at Wheeler High School.

Cobb Board of Education chairman Scott Sweeney, who represents the Eastvalley attendance area, repeatedly told the audience of around 50 citizens during the two-hour-long meeting that the project list is only a draft, and that community input is vital.

In November, the school board is expected to finalize a project list totalling $717 milliion, the anticipated collection amount for an extension of the current SPLOST III, which ends at the end of 2013.

SPLOST IV, if put out for a referendum and approved by Cobb voters early next year, would be collected from 2014 to 2018. 

Nearly $2 billion in construction, renovation and technology needs throughout the Cobb school system have been identified. 

In one of the preliminary draft project lists, Eastvalley and three other nearby East Cobb elementary schools -- Sedalia Park, Brumby and Powers Ferry -- were identified on the replacement list, including the possibility of consolidation.

But those specifics were dropped before the SPLOST IV "notebook" (see the attached PDF) was distributed to school board members last month.

"When are the names of the replacement schools going to be revealed?" asked Suzanne Gardner, the mother of an Eastvalley second grader. 

"I don't know," said Sweeney, who said he's not sure it would happen before a referendum. He said that process would include a further determination of needs, as well as gauging community reaction.

"You can also pigeon-hole yourself," Sweeney said. "When you put these things in there, these are really placeholders."

State law requires that SPLOST referenda contain specific projects before they can be presented to voters. Each of the three replacement schools would cost an estimated $23.3 million.

Eastvalley, Sedalia Park, Powers Ferry and Brumby, which are located in close proximity to one another, were all built in the 1950s and early 1960s.

One early consolidation plan would have called for a school with at least 1,500 students, which Sweeney said is a non-starter for him. 

"We're not putting 1,500 kids in an elementary school," he said. 

Eastvalley parents are upset that the improvements they believe are pressing are in the "gray area" of "potential" needs on the SPLOST IV list.

All that's included now is a playground replacement, technology upgrades and funding for new musical instruments.

Gardner said she and her husband were both glad to help pay for a new gym floor and a new outdoor field through the Eastvalley Foundation. But she's dismayed that a new building or addition to replace existing portable classrooms is only on the provisional SPLOST IV list.

After the meeting she admitted she's unsure about whether to vote for the SPLOST.

"If we aren't one of those TBD schools to be rebuilt," Gardner said, "I want to see something happen that takes away the trailers. I want some transparency. There are too many variables here for my taste."

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