Six schools on drawing board for Clayton County

By Johnny Jackson

In the next five years with continuing growth, Clayton County will have to build six new schools with a total of 398 classrooms.

This comes as construction continues on a number of facilities.

Despite debilitating and dank weather that has stifled construction crews around metro Atlanta recently, construction in Clayton County on school facilities remains constant, officials said.

A new middle school on Evans Drive seems to be growing from the ground with footings and foundation already placed. And there are design plans to renovate and add 251 classrooms to several Clayton County schools in the near future to facilitate their expected growth.

Paid in part by money from the one-cent sales tax SPLOST funds that are delicately intertwined in the economy, the county continues to approach construction at a determined pace. School construction is made entirely possible by available SPLOST dollars and voters, who are seeing the results, said spokesman Charles White. Even construction on the county's new Career Academy and Open Campus High School off Lee Street is almost complete.

"Construction is going fine, progress is being made, and we're on schedule," said Ronnie Watts, coordinating supervisor for facilities construction in Clayton County. "We hope it will be completed around Thanksgiving, furnished in December, and ready to open sometime in January."

Clay and mud is about all that girdles the renovated 13.7-acre campus now. About 45 contractors worked in constructing the new 138,000 square-foot brick and concrete sectional building, which just received permanent power last Friday.

"We've had a little hardship due to the weather, but we've managed to work through it," said Don Brogdon, project superintendent. One other obstacle for contractors on this project was the site itself. It rolls like cold tides.

"It's challenging to take an old school and renovate and build on such a tight site," Watts said.

"One thing that was unique about this job is that there were various elevations," said Danny Creamer, co-owner of Creamer-Pearce, LLC.

Creamer said the contracting company reinforced buildings with concrete retaining walls that would double as planters. About 60 percent of the Career Academy and Open Campus High School campus is new construction.

According to Dwayne Hobbs, coordinator of career and technical education, the Career Academy, approved in 1999 by the board of education, was designed to serve high school juniors and seniors who want to obtain post-secondary education in a non-traditional environment.

The academy is proposed to collaborate with other post-secondary institutions like Griffin Technical College. Clayton County high school students may be dually enrolled in their schools and at the Career Academy, which will offer programs in business operations, construction, management information systems, health and medical services, auto services, and general technological literacy.

"I think it's going to be a wonderful building," Hobbs said. "They're making progress. It's big, it's nice, it's spacious. I think the public is getting a lot of bang for their buck, as far as the facilities are concerned."

Otherwise, construction at the Career Academy and Open Campus High School campus has gone smoothly.

"It has been a coordinated effort among the contractor, architect, and the board of education," Creamer said. "And everything is on track for a good finish."