E-SPLOST VI: STEM High School, school additions

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

Henry County voters approved the renewal of education SPLOST in March 2021. District staff presented the proposed E-SPLOST VI projects on December 14, 2020.

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 new school will be in downtown Stockbridge.

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. Update: The school board awarded construction for Birch Creek Elementary in August 2022. The new school will open in August 2024.

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.

E-SPLOST VI School Additions

Finally, six schools will see additions during E-SPLOST VI. 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. These 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

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 six-hundred classroom trailers. As of Dec. 2020, the district has forty-eight trailers. The additions and new schools will eliminate the need for all trailers presently in use.

In conclusion, school capacity projects are a major focus of E-SPLOST VI. However, other projects include school facilities, transportation and technology.

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Clayton Carte is the founder and owner of MHF News. Since 2017, he has written over 1,000 articles sharing local updates with the community.