Board to Consider Land Purchase for Future School

January 12, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
School Board to Consider Purchase of 57 Acres for New School
Mark Willoughby

The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night is expected to discuss the possibility of entering into a contract to purchase fifty seven acres of property on Allen's Ferry Road which may become the future site for a new DCHS complex.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, in an interview with WJLE Wednesday, said he believes this is the right location and the right time to buy. "We're in need of building an additional school. But to build an additional school, we have to purchase some land. (The property) is in really close proximity to DeKalb County High School right now. It's on Allen's Ferry Road right across from the property that we already own. It's fifty seven acres. We need to be pro-active, looking toward the future."

Should the school board vote to buy this property, Willoughby said no time line has been established for building a new school. "To say when a building (new school) would be built, I can't say right now. That's for the (school) board to work on and for the county commission to work on. There is no time line on it whatsoever, we just think this is being pro-active going ahead and buying the land. I want to work hand in hand with the county commission. I think we have a real good county commission. They want what's best for children. We have to look at what we can afford and what we need. I think I know what we need so we'd like to purchase this land while prices are low."

According to Director Willoughby, the school system already has the funds to make the purchase through state BEP (Basic Education Program) reserve monies, so no tax increase or local tax dollars would be required. However, a budget amendment would have to be approved by the county commission. "To enter into a contract to buy land, we would have to have an amendment to our budget in order to do this. It would have to be agreed upon by the board of education and by the county commission. The purchase of this land would not require any additional tax revenue dollars. We wouldn't be asking for a tax increase or anything. This purchase of land would be paid for out of BEP reserves. We can use BEP reserves for one time purchases, one time expenses. BEP reserves are for purchases like this."

Willoughby said four of the five schools in the county are already overcrowded and the problem is likely to only worsen in the years ahead, if it is not addressed. "We have five schools in our system and basically four of the five are overcrowded, no space. We have one school (DCHS) where the teachers are actually going from room to room. When a teacher is out of his or her room for planning time, another teacher goes in that classroom to teach a class. That's not an ideal teaching situation. That's not an ideal learning situation. We would love to offer more courses and more things for our students. Our county is growing. Last year at this time we had 2,905 students. Today, we have approximately 3,030 students. Right now we have 830 students in high school. Looking at projections, next year at this time there will be 879 students at the high school. In the year 2012-13, there will be 886 students and by the year 2018-19, we should have 945 high school students."

According to Willoughby, what makes this site attractive is that the school system should be able to buy it at a good price, it is close to the existing high school, and it is centrally located in the county. "It's good for a lot of different reasons. If we go through with this and at some time in the future build this school, if we don't have the money to build everything at once (such as all the athletic fields), we would have everything in close proximity (to the existing school). That would be really good. Another thing about that particular area from what I understand is that DCHS was built right in the center of the county. Having this area right in the center of the county I think is going to be a good thing also because people going to the (new) high school won't have to be bused any farther than they are right now."

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