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DeKalb School Board submits site approval application for two new schools

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DeKalb School Board submits site approval application for two new schools

DeKalb County Board of Education members pose for a photo during DeKalb County Board of Education’s Oath of Office Ceremony at the Robert R. Freeman Administrative & Instructional Complex in Stone Mountain on Friday Jan. 6, 2023. (Left-Right) Vickie Turner (Dist. 5,) Whitney McGinniss (Dist. 2,) Diijon DaCosta, Sr. (Dist. 6,) Allyson Gevertz (Dist. 4,) Deirdre Pierce (Dist. 3) and Anna Hill (Dist. 1.) Dr. Joyce Morley, not shown represents Dist. 7. Photo by Dean Hesse.

DeKalb County, GA — On Feb. 12 the DeKalb County School Board signed off on a site approval application for the rebuilding of Sequoyah Middle and High School and Dresden Elementary. 

According to Rough Draft Atlanta, the combined campus will address overcrowding at Cross Keys High and Sequoyah Middle. The project is estimated to cost $200 million.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the new Dresden Elementary school has been discussed for some time. According to the AJC, “The new school will consolidate Dresden Elementary and Cary Reynolds Elementary on the Dresden site in Chamblee.”

This site approval application will be sent to the Georgia Department of Education and was one of 25 items presented by the Operations Division of the DeKalb County School district. These items totaled roughly $40 million, of these, 10 items – about $10 million –  were E-SPLOST projects. 

The items varied. The school board granted easements to Georgia Power to allow them to improve electricity infrastructure around E.L Miller and the site of, formerly, Atherton Elementary School. The board also authorized participation in the State Capital outlay program, where the school district would be reimbursed roughly $127,000 by the state. However, most items were boilerplate approval of contract renewals and acquisitions. 

Notably, one of these items was asking the school board to renew a contract for painting services with four firms, one of which, A & D Painting, was involved in an incident in 2020 where old lead paint was incorrectly dealt with while performing maintenance at Laurel Ridge. 

A&D Painting subcontracted out pressure washing for the site, and it was this subcontractor that was responsible for exposing the lead paint irresponsibly. 

Board Member Whitney McGinnis raised concern on this item, citing the past incident at Laurel Ridge. 

“My goal is not to be obstructionist in any way, I’d just like us to have a conversation,” McGinnis said. 

Both COO Erik Hofstetter and the school district attorney said the contract presented on Feb. 12 allowed for board oversight of subcontractors, meaning it wouldn’t be in violation of the contract for the district to ask A&D not to bring back the pressure washing subcontractor that had made the mistake. 

Hofstetter also said that the district’s project managers would be on site to make sure procedure was being followed, that it is “a part of their jobs”. 

Hofstetter and the board also discussed the board’s critiques about a lack of clarity and administrative errors with several of the items presented at the Feb. 12 board meeting. For example, in discussion of an item about purchasing new electric vehicles, Chair Dijon DaCosta Sr. asked for more details about the vehicles in the current fleet that were being replaced, and what they were being replaced with, information that was not included in the agenda packet. 

Hofstetter and his team were able to expeditiously present the requested information, however a theme in the discussion was the board feeling as though they lacked some of the necessary information to ground the discussion. 

Board Member McGinnis said this has been a consistent issue. 

 “We were asked in August to approve E-SPLOST V program adjustments,” she said. “If the board remembers, we ended up actually approving those items at the retreat a couple of weeks later. Because at the meeting itself, we didn’t feel like we had enough information…We didn’t feel like we understood the big picture.…I feel like we’re kind of back here.”

“The board still doesn’t really have a holistic understanding of what’s going on in these projects,” she added.

These sentiments were echoed by several board members including Board member Anna Hill who said, “One of the difficulties in this role is getting the work done while balancing that with getting the information out [about the work being done]…”

“[But] one of the issues is the lack of understanding of the big picture,” Hill added.

Hofstetter confirmed that part of Monday’s discussion, in addition to keeping actual processes rolling, was to make sure the board has some frame of reference for what was going on in operations. 

“We sent out roughly 50 RFPs in the past year, each one of those RFPs is for two to three projects, So it’s a bunch,” he said. “This is on top of longer projects that are in progress, and that’s part of it, getting all the moving pieces organized.”

Hofstetter said the board’s feedback is something he and his team were aware of and were trying to address.

In other news, the board also heard a presentation from its contracted lobbying firm, Denton’s on the status and feasibility of bills related to the board’s legislative priorities. The representative presented that allowing bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and custodians to participate in the same retirement plan available to teachers will likely be a two-year process. He also informed the board that a significant revision to the QBE formula wasn’t likely, which was, in his words, “a real shame, we are now only 30 years out of date”. Also, unlikely was the board of education getting a seat on development authorities. Raises for the board, he said, while subject to negotiation, had a good likelihood of passing.  

The school board also approved:

— A contract renewal between MRESA and MEGLRS for an additional year for an amount not to exceed $225,000.

The agenda says, “MRESA has been providing shared services in Georgia since 1966. RESAs partner with other state agencies, including the Georgia Department of Education, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, and the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Approval of this contract would allow MEGLRS to provide increased services to staff that support students with disabilities.  The provision of these services by MEGLRS is mandated by the Georgia Department of Education, Division for Special Education Services and Supports.”

— Contract extensions with Pediatric Services of America, Inc. dba Aveanna Healthcare; Cobb Pediatric/The Stepping Stones Group; Delta T Group; and Maxim Healthcare to provide school health and school nursing services for more than $50,000 per vendor, but not to exceed a total contracted amount of $3,000,000.

— A contract with Metro RESA for $72,900 (54 teachers x $1,350.00 per teacher) to provide access for DeKalb teachers to participate in the Metro RESA Online ESOL Endorsement Program and professional libraries.

— A contract renewal for Naviance Inc. by PowerSchool, for 15 months in an amount not to exceed $592,594.29.

“The requested contract renewal is through June 30, 2025,” the agenda says. “The renewal will allow the DeKalb County School District to provide a comprehensive college and career readiness and social-emotional learning solution for twenty-four (24) high schools, twenty (20) middle schools, and eighty-six (86) elementary schools.”

— A contract renewal for uniforms Riddell All American and BSN Sports, LLC for $1,475,000

— A $375,000 contract renewal with StandGuard Aquatics, Inc. for pool maintenance services.

— An asphalt paving and striping contract to DAF Concrete, Inc. and Shepco Paving, Inc. in an amount not to exceed $2 million.

— A $2.5 million worth of contracts for painting services with the following vendors: A & D Painting, Inc., Intercontinental Commercial Services Inc., Ideas Painting LLC, and Brad Construction Company II, LLC.

— A $5 million worth of contracts for HVAC repair and installation services with the following vendors: 5 Seasons Mechanical, ARS Mechanical LLC, HVAC Allies LLC, Mann Mechanical Company, Inc., Maxair Mechanical, Mechanical Services, Inc., Smith Mechanical Heating & Air, and Trane U.S. Inc.

— A $1.5 million contract renewal for tree-cutting services with the following companies: Casey Tree Experts, Richmond Tree Experts, and Total Outdoor, LLC.

— A $3.5 million contract for floor covering installation services to the following companies: Brad Construction Company II, LLC and Kidd & Associates Flooring & Contracting LLC.

— A $4 million contract for fixtures and equipment to the following companies: Ernie Morris Enterprises, Lakeshore Learning Materials LLC., and School Specialty LLC.,

— A $2 million contract for the purchase of school support vehicles awarded to the following companies: Wade Ford, Inc., and Allan Vigil Ford.

“This purchase will ensure that the Operations Division is adequately equipped to respond safely and in a timely manner to student school bus issues throughout the district,” the agenda says.

— An $8.1 million contract for gasoline and diesel fuel purchased from the following companies: James River Solutions, LLC as the primary supplier, Sunoco, LP as the secondary supplier, and Boswell Oil Company as the tertiary supplier.

— A $1.5 million contract for architectural and engineering services to be awarded to Corgan. The architecture contract is for the Ashford Park Elementary School and International Student Center HVAC systems replacement and renovations

— A $1.98 million contract for architectural and engineering services to be awarded to Cooper Carry, Inc. The architecture contract is for the Idlewood Elementary School and Murphey Candler Elementary School HVAC Systems replacement and renovation project.

— A contract extension and annual license for using The Kahua Project Management Information System software. The contract is not to exceed $376,000.

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