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Construction schedule proposed for ninth HS, third stadium

By Curt Yeomans

Construction on Clayton County's ninth high school, and third athletic stadium, should be finished in two years, if the Board of Education approves a schedule proposed by the school system's construction department.

Ronnie Watts, the system's director of construction, told the board, during a work session on Monday, construction of the facilities is set to begin in January 2008. The buildings could be erected by mid-October 2009, and ready for use by Christmas of the same year. Students might be attending classes at the new high school in the spring of 2010.

"We were generous when planning for rain delays, and had 15 rain days built into the schedule," Watts told board members. Overall, the work is set for completion within 21 months, if the weather cooperates.

The new high school, and the stadium, will be built on a controversial 155-acre site behind Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale. The land was purchased from developer John D. Stephens in 2006 for $10.2 million, and Stephens' company, Stephens Rock and Dirt, was paid an additional $7.8 million to do grading at the site.

Funds collected from a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) were used to purchase the land and pay for site preparation. A middle school and an elementary school are also planned for the site.

Site preparation work was completed on Sept. 30. The school and the stadium have been designed. The next step is to hire a contractor to build the facilities.

Advertising for the job will start Friday, and a community awareness meeting will be held on Nov. 13. A pre-bid conference for contractors will occur on Nov. 19.

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on accepting the bid recommended by interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan on Jan. 7, 2008. Construction is set to begin later that month.

The only question board members had on Monday was whether the new high school could be a part of an experiment with the elementary, junior-high and senior-high model of education, as opposed to the current elementary, middle and high school concept.

"Here is an opportunity, with three schools in one location, to try this out and see if it works," said Ericka Davis, the chairperson of the board.

Board member Sandra Scott disagreed, though, and said the school system should try it out at a proposed K-8 facility, which is planned to go on property along Panhandle Road in the Lovejoy area. She referenced a series of public, information-gathering meetings held at the beginning of the year.

"This school has already been designed, and the people have spoken about what they want," Scott said. "This school should go on as planned."

But, Davis said she thought the proposed K-8 school would be a bad place to experiment with the junior-high school model, because it would affect Lovejoy High School, which is the only high school near the proposed facility.

Lovejoy High School would continue to be a traditional ninth- through-twelfth-grade high school.

"If we did it with the Panhandle (area) school, it would affect the other schools around it," Davis countered.

Watts then explained it would be possible to try to junior-high and senior-high school model on the property in Riverdale. Each grade at the high school is separated into it's own "house," or wing of the school. Going to a model where only the 10th through 12th grades are at the new high school would only mean there is an extra wing at the school.

"The facility, if the board wishes to go to a 10-through-12, senior-high model, would be able to accommodate that," Watts said.