E-SPLOST VI: STEM High School, school additions

Aerial photo of McDonough High School with words “E-SPLOST VI” (staff photo)

Henry County voters will consider the renewal of education SPLOST in March 2021. District staff presented the proposed projects on December 14. Board members must approve the E-SPLOST VI project list in January.

Education SPLOST is a one-cent sales tax collected in Henry County. Collections fund capital projects within the school system. Voters last approved the program in March 2016.

E-SPLOST V funded the following: building McDonough High and Middle School, the Fairview Performing Arts Center, and a second multipurpose gymnasium at each high school. The program completed renovations to every school in the district. Renovations started during E-SPLOST IV.

E-SPLOST VI returns its focus to building new classrooms. The location of school additions is based on a classroom capacity & utilization study completed this year.

STEM High School

Chiefly, a STEM-focused high school is planned. The project represents the largest line-item in E-SPLOST VI. The board of education will decide the location at a later date.

The STEM school proposes to offer “deeply focused pathways” for students centered on science, technology, engineering, and math. Available focus areas will include healthcare / biomedical science. Students will receive advanced core content designed to provide access to collegiate-level work before their high school graduation. Unlike the district’s Academy for Advanced Studies, the STEM school would be a stand-alone school. The Academy is supplemental to a student’s primary high school.

Construction will tentatively start in 2023 and the school open for the 2026–2027 school year.

New Elementary Schools

Next, two new elementary schools will open in E-SPLOST VI. Both schools will be constructed on property already owned by the school system.

The first location is off Willow Lane. The facility would relieve capacity at Wesley Lakes Elementary. Construction looks to start in 2021 with plans to open one year later.

A second future elementary school is located off South Unity Grove Road in Locust Grove. The school would open for the 2027–2028 school year.

New school names have not been decided. Willow Lane Elementary is a doubtful name choice since it would share abbreviations with Wesley Lakes.

School Additions

Finally, six schools will see additions. The additions support forecast enrollment at middle and high schools. For example, Dutchtown High School will reach 115% capacity without the addition. In contrast, the percentage falls to 87% factoring in the extra classrooms.

The county built all middle and high schools with room for future additions. The state calculates a school’s maximum capacity based on the size of the media center, commons, and kitchen space. The areas are larger than necessary with future growth in mind.

The only redistricting expected in the upcoming years will be for the new elementary schools. Neither middle school nor high school attendance zones are forecast to change thanks to the additions described below.

Dutchtown High School

  • 16 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2022
  • Open School Year: 2024–2025

Dutchtown Middle School

  • 12 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2024
  • Open School Year: 2026–2027
Some residents want new schools in Dutchtown

Calls for a new school cluster in the Dutchtown area was described by board member Josh Hinton as the high-cost option. A new high school and middle school costs between $70–90 million. Also, the schools would take longer to develop and open. Hinton described redistricting to other schools as a no-cost but unpopular option. Building the additions is a low-cost option that satisfies demand for the next ten years.

Ola High School

  • 10 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2024
  • Open School Year: 2026–2027

Ola Middle School

  • 14 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2023
  • Open School Year: 2025–2026

In addition, the project list includes constructing a second entrance into Ola Middle School. The school system owns road frontage off Wilson Drive.

Locust Grove High School

  • 9 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2025
  • Open School Year: 2028–2029

Union Grove Middle School

  • 15 classrooms
  • Construction Start: 2026
  • Open School Year: 2028–2029

During the early 2000s, Henry County Schools had over 600 trailers in use. Today, 48 trailers are used for classrooms within the district. The additions and new schools will eliminate the need for all trailers currently in use.

In conclusion, school capacity projects are a major focus of E-SPLOST VI. However, other projects include school facilities, transportation and technology. Look for articles with the remaining projects later this week.

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About Clayton 939 Articles
Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of Moving Henry Forward Community News. Since 2017, he has written over 900 articles sharing local updates with the community. Now, in 2022, he is running for Georgia State House District 117 to advocate for Henry County at the State Capitol.