The county school board on Thursday night approved a resolution to pursue Qualified School Construction Bonds through the state Department of Education.
The bond funding would be used to build new replacement facilities for Teasley Middle and E.T. Booth Middle schools and also might pay for a new elementary school.
Those three schools, as well as another new elementary school to be funded separately, all were included in the district's annual update of its five-year facility plan for capital outlay projects also approved on Thursday.
The district previously had deleted three elementary schools from its five-year plan because of decreased sales tax revenue.
School boundaries for the 2010-11 school year were approved by the board as well.
The changes, which will affect fewer than 500 students, add a sixth-grade level to Mill Creek Middle; change the grade configuration for Arnold Mill, Johnston and Little River Elementary schools from kindergarten through sixth to kindergarten through fifth and shift about 55 students from Clayton Elementary to R.M. Moore Elementary. The changes also correct errors on previous redrawings.
The little-to-no-interest Qualified School Construction Bonds through the federal stimulus program are earmarked specifically for capital outlay projects for schools.
The district plans to seek $115 million in bonds, which would be repaid by SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) proceeds.
The bonds won't be sold until July 1, 2010, said Candler Howell, district assistant superintendent for financial management.
Use of the bonds would save the district about $38 million in interest over 18 years. Per the state department of education, all projects must be designed, approved and under construction by December 2010. Additionally, all the bonds must be sold by December 2010.
The district expects to hear back from the state by February regarding the status of its application. The board during its January meeting will approve a more specific bond amount request.
Land acquisition for a replacement Teasley Middle in Canton, and a new elementary school also will be funded by the bonds. The district already owns land behind E.T. Booth Middle to use for building a replacement facility.
Petruzielo said about $80 million is the target for the two replacement middle schools, which also includes the Teasley land acquisition.
County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said the replacement middle schools are needed as the facilities are to small to keep up with the growth in student population.
Additionally, a federal Office of Civil Rights complaint has been filed against Teasley, and he said the only resolution it to make large permanent improvements.
"This enables us to magnify and expand the current capital outlay plan... and save tremendous amount of tax dollars in Cherokee County," Petruzielo said of the bonds.
The new middle schools would be larger prototypes with a sixth- through eighth-grade configuration.
The change would leave Dean Rusk Middle School as the only seventh- through eighth-grade middle school, which Petruzielo said the district may address in the next SPLOST referendum.
With the change at E.T. Booth, Petruzielo said the district could possibly make Chapman Intermediate as a ninth-grade center for Etowah High School. It would be similar to the district's Ninth Grade Academy in place at Cherokee High School. Chapman currently serves fifth- and sixth-graders.
Board Vice Chairwoman Debi Radcliff asked if some of the bond funds could be used to place lockers at Chapman Intermediate. Petruzielo said that would not be possible as the funds only can be used for construction projects.
Board Chairwoman Janet Read said if the bond money "comes into fruition," the construction projects would not interrupt classroom instruction.
Additionally, she said the district may save money by receiving many bids to choose from due to the lack of work available for construction companies.
"The time is absolutely right to take advantage of this," she said.