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DeKalb School System Proposes $475M SPLOST Program

The DeKalb County Board of Education called a special meeting Friday to review the school system's 2020 Vision facilities plan and SPLOST 4.

11:42: Today's meeting was pushed back two hours due to an extended executive session. Board members are beginning to assemble behind the dais.

11:47: The presentation will be given by Barbara Colman, the school system's interim operations manager. Several items are on the agenda before SPLOST, however, including discussions about a lacrosse program and the broadcast of board meetings on PDS TV 24.

11:49: Chair Tom Bowen calls the meeting to order.

11:50: Colman is asking board to approve money for Knollwood Elementary School library HVAC system.

11:54: Board unanimously approves it. Board approves pre-construction change order of up to $400,000 for work to Cross Keys High School. Money is in existing construction budget. Board member Pamela Speaks said she doesn't understand what mistakes led to change order. Colman said the initial proposal for work was incorrect. Board member Don McChesney said he is "disturbed," and the school system may not be able to recoup lost money.

11:58: Unanimous vote of approval.

12:00: Board adjourns to Committee of the Whole, a formality.

12:01: Bob Moseley talks about countywide lacrosse program. Arabia Mountain already approved to participate in state lacrosse program. DeKalb is behind other metro school districts when it comes to sanctioned lacrosse teams. Total cost for boys and girls teams for each school about $30,000 per year per school. Most metro systems have sanctioned lacross programs save for Clayton County. Most started with club programs, however. Atlanta Public Schools is the most recent, however, with their sanctioned program starting this year.

12:05: Moseley presents three options. Could stay as is with no cost at a club level. Option Two would allow schools to pursue their own sanctioned programs with no district money. Option Three would be to pay for thre high schools for about $90,000 of district money. "It will be easier for us to uphold standards of safety with us funding it," he said.

12:07: County has already identified funding source but would need to raise additional money, Moseley said. But county is ready to pay for three high school programs, including Dunwoody High School.

12:08: Speaks asks about programs. Dunwoody would definitely be one of them. Arabia is the other. Southwest DeKalb, Tucker and Druid Hills have also expressed interest in the third program, Moseley said. Four programs may be an option if four schools are ready and interested. Arabia Mountain doesn't have a team going but have been approved and planned to pay for it themselves. 

12:12: Board member Nancy Jester asks what system would do if all five interested teams wanted one now. Moseley said system would go back to drawing board. "Dunwoody High School, sitting in the audience today, has worked very, very hard for this," Jester said. She says Dunwoody should be allowed to pursue sanction even if they fund the program themselves.

12:20: "The idea is to provide an opportunity here, and I think we definitely want to do that," McChesney said. "I think we owe them a chance to play."

12:21: Jester said she likes Womack's idea but would like the system to provide direction to schools. Interim Superintendent Ramona Tyson said she doesn't want to leave today with open-ended questions about program. Assures parents of Arabia and Dunwoody that the district will commit to them at the very least because they've already worked to develop programs.

12:24: Board member Sarah Copelin-Wood said she supports Option Two. Wants all schools to have the option to start a program.

12:28: Board will ammend agenda to add an action item. Womack doesn't want "to jump into it at $30,000 per high school. ... Let's just stick our toe in the water a little bit." Cobb County only pays for coaches, supplements and transportation. It would be much cheaper to follow that model, Womack said.

12:32: Moseley said district has money for three fully-funded programs. Tyson asks to approve Option Three with Arabia and Dunwoody and a third school to be named. But only three schools would be open to play right now. Expansion would come later. Speaks said she prefers Option Two because it opens it to every high school while only covering some of the costs.

12:37: Jester suggests a hybrid that would allow all schools to participate and partially fund their programs. Womack agrees.

12:39: Speaks asks what "supplements" are. They're coaching payment supplements, Moseley said.

12:40: Board member Gene Walker said he thinks the board should approve the school system's recommendation and not change it. Forget the hybrid, he said, and approve Option Three at the board's next meeting.

12:42: Womack said he supports his hybridized model.

12:45: Board approved hybridized model.

We'll be back when the board discusses its facilities plan.

1:41: And we're back. Tyson said they're going to present a SPLOST 4 projects list and a facility master plan. Presentation by Ed Humble with MGT of America. Humble said it will be complex so apologies if this live blog stops making sense at some point. We'll follow up with stories. Facility master plan will drive the SPLOST 4 proposal.

1:45: Facility plan. Phase 1 was consolidation and closures. Phase Two will take place between 2013-17 and funded by SPLOST 4 though not entirely. The master plan and the SPLOST package are data-driven, Humble said. Planning toward elementary schools of 900 students, middle schools of 1,200 and high schools of 1,600. Phase Two will focus on elementary schools, Humble said. Address schools with most critical deficiencies and lowest combined scores based on data.

1:49: Combine DESA and DSA into a comprehensive arts school. Integrate magnet programs at Wadsworth ES and Chapel Hill MS. That's MGT's recommendation, Humble said.

1:50: Phase Three from 2018-22, and it would include a SPLOST 5 proposal. Phase Four would be 2023 and beyond. All the while refreshing buildings with critical deficiencies while keep data up to date. Phase Four would require a SPLOST 6 proposal.

2:01: Humble is rolling through heavy data tables that can be accessed online here. It's the entire presentation. Most of the remaining live blog will document board members' reactions to the presentation.

2:05: Recommendation includes replacing Fernbank, Pleasantdale and Smoke Rise. Renovations to Briar Vista, Briarlake, Evansdale, Henderson Mill, Idlewood, Laurel Ridge, Oak Grove and Sagamore Hills in different phases. Henderson Middle recommended for renovations.

2:08: Rockbridge and Champion Middle School recommended for replacement. Pine Ridge, Redan High School and Stone Mountain High School recommended for renovations. Remember, this isn't all SPLOST 4. It's the entire 10-year plan.

2:11: Continued review of the 10-year plan. Access it at the 2:01 link above.

2:21: SPLOST 4 resolution. Presented by Colman. Proposal would allow SPLOST to continue for five more years (2013-17).

2:23: Proposal will address school environments, incuding HVAC, roof, plumbing, electrical and environmental features.

2:24: SPLOST 4 total: $475 million.

2:31: All documents given at meeting can be found here.

2:32: Colman turns meeting over to Tyson. This is the second of five public meetings regarding plan. Board wants to approve SPLOST resolution and 10-year plan on June 6. The 5-year local facility plan to go to vote later in June.

2:35: Copelin-Wood wants more interaction between board and system during proposal presentations like this. Walker: "I think this is truly outstanding work and information."

2:44: Copelin-Wood said she believes presentation doesn't take students into consideration. Research shows students learn better in smaller schools, she said. McNair Elementary School is in terrible shape academically because there are too many students in the school.

2:47: Humble acknowledges some small schools "do really great things" but adds that new schools can improve test scores by up to 11 points. Copelin-Wood wants to know what he bases his findings on. "Bricks and mortar does not make a good performing school," she said. "We got to show parents that there's something academically going on that will make them feel good."

2:55: Meeting is adjourned. This live blog is terminated. Literally.

Lisa Kuebler May 27, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Thanks for doing this. Have they presented the 20/20 plan yet? That was supposed to be on the agenda today, too.
Paula May 27, 2011 at 05:47 PM
The presentation is on-line: http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www/documents/vision-2020/master-plan-presentation-(2011-05-27).pdf
Uncle Sam May 30, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Splost = Thievery and against the constitution ! I have no more money to spare. Maybe I should just get out of this criminal hijacked country !
Ian May 31, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Looking for a country with no taxes and no "Big Government"? Somalia comes to mind.
Tom Doolittle May 31, 2011 at 03:11 PM
True--very few counties with no SPLOST(s) and new facilities same time. However, my guess is Gwinnett gets most for its buck--if you like roads. How do they build schools there? Fact is--the demographers have really messed up and built schools where we have not only declining populations, but also more communities where students leaving their neighborhorhood schools in droves, opting for private/home/theme and "north". Not only that, but getting to middle schools later thean the restof the nation gave Dekalb the perfect opportunty to see that data suggesting middle schools are a failure--didn't need to build 'em. Also turns out we shouldn't have closed Henderson and Shamrock. This is a cluster...no votes until we get reallllly comfortable wih the projections.

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