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Revised SPLOST IV Projects Unveiled

Additional funding and renovations have been proposed at Tapp Middle School, Teasley and Kincaid elementaries and in Cobb County.

The feedback Cobb Board of Education members have been receiving about the proposed SPLOST IV project list has produced some major revisions in the package, and for several schools throughout the county.

Board members on Thursday discussed the revised list, which still comes in at an estimated $717 million in collections.

Among the major changes are $3.1 million in renovations at Tapp Middle School in Powder Springs, a $3.3 million addition at Kincaid Elementary School in Northeast Cobb and new classroom space at Teasley Elementary School in Smyrna costing another $3.1 million.

In East Cobb, two significant changes have been proposed: A $30 million middle school replacement, likely at East Cobb Middle School, and a total of $27 million in renovations, up from $14 million, for Walton High School.

Removed from the list is one of two career academies that cost an estimated $30 million each.

Remaining is a $29 million earmark for the reconstruction of Osborne High School, three unspecified elementary school replacement projects and theater and gymnasium replacements at a number of high schools.

The board is expected to vote in November to call a referendum next March. The current SPLOST III collection period ends at the end of 2013, and the one-cent SPLOST IV extension would cover 2014-2018.

Since the initial SPLOST IV list was revealed earlier this fall, parents have been flooding message board and speaking out at public meetings. On a feedback link on the Cobb County School District website, parents from Walton, Tapp and East Cobb's Eastvalley Elementary School have been most vocal.

During a public comment period at Thursday's board meeting, parents continued to press for more improvements.

"What action can we take as a community?" Tapp parent Dolores Abbott told board members. "I feel like I'm in a third-world country, because that's what Tapp gets."

Walton parents have been demanding a fine arts complex to replace outmoded and cramped space at a school that is nearing 40 years old and is serving 2,600 students, 1,000 more than it was designed to hold.

James Wilson, an educational consultant hired by the school board to prepare and revise the SPLOST IV list, said each school's top priority is reflected in the proposal, and that "the whole book is based on need."

That's the problem board members face as they finalize the list expected to be placed before voters.

North Cobb board member Lynnda Eagle, who is leaving office at the end of the year, was dismayed that some elementary schools will continue to have trailers through the SPLOST IV collection period.

"We've been talking about portable classrooms for a long time," she said.

Northeast Cobb board member Kathleen Angelucci expressed concern about safety considerations, citing bus pick-up lane logistics at Blackwell Elementary School in her district.

Eagle also is an advocate of the career academies, which Superintendent Michael Hinojosa has proposed and calls a "game-changer," especially in preparing non-college-bound students.

But that proposal generated skepticism from Angelucci and board member Tim Stultz.

"The concept is awesome," Angelucci said. "But there is the stark reality that this is going to cost this district" not just in building new facilities, but in staffing and maintaining them for years.

Hinojosa said while he could not offer a prototype, he and his staff would try to work in some more details before the board votes on calling for a referendum.

"I think this is a very exciting project because I have seen it work," he said.

The board will have another public meeting in November before a vote.

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