051918_altama elementary 2

051918_altama elementary 2

Altama Elementary School, shown at top, is at the center of a debate about whether it is safe to build a replacement adjacent to a federal Superfund site. Above, a map shows the proximity of the school site to the Superfund site.

The Glynn County Board of Education plans to pursue a new site option for the replacement of Altama Elementary School.

The school board voted unanimously at a meeting Tuesday night to authorize school officials to execute a contract to purchase 27.65 acres of land at 6045 Altama Ave. for the construction of a new Altama Elementary.

“We have worked hard to be transparent and open in finding the best site for this new school,” said Virgil Cole, superintendent of Glynn County Schools. “The question we have continually asked ourselves is where is the best place for this school.”

The property being considered is three-fourths of a mile from the current school site, on which the school board previously planned to build the new school directly behind the current one.

This plan hit a snag when local groups and community members began to criticize the school board’s decision to build on property adjacent to one of four Superfund sites in Glynn County, where Hercules, Inc., dumped toxic waste until the former landfill was shut down in 1980 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The school board listened to these concerns, said school board member Millard Allen, and the new location does away with those issues.

The new property option has many assets, Cole said, including an easier construction schedule that would not disrupt school operations and the potential to install a geothermal system to heat and cool the facility.

“And most importantly, it is still in the Altama community,” Cole said.

Those who’ve supported the previous plan to build on the current school site, including school board members and the school’s administrators and staff, have said keeping the school in the same community needed to be a priority when choosing the new school’s site.

The land purchase contract has several preceding conditions, Cole said. The seller will need to obtain a clearance letter from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and the school system must receive site approval from the state’s Department of Education.

That will be a long process, which the school board just recently began for the current school site. The site approval request for the current site was sent in June.

“Closing will be determined once these preceding conditions have been met,” Cole said.

The purchase price is not to exceed $1.4 million, he said.

School board member Hank Yeargan said the new property is located in a safer, more open space that will better serve the school’s students, staff and families.

“I think this will be a better place for the teachers to be able to teach, and it provides a whole lot more room for that school to be able to thrive,” Yeargan said. “I’m excited about this site, and I hope this all works out. This will help transform this community.”

In other business, the school board also unanimously approved a “memorandum of understanding,” or MOU, that will allow school officials to move forward with plans to allow the local Boys & Girls Club to renovate a wing of Burroughs-Molette Elementary that will be saved when the school is torn down later this year.

The school board also approved a two-part bid for new furniture for the new Burroughs-Molette Elementary.

The board approved a bid from Contemporary Interiors for $164,300 for teacher desks and bookcases for the classrooms and furniture for the media center.

The other part of the bid went to Georgia Speciality Equipment Company, who bid $185,846 to supply desks, chairs, tables and other furniture for the classrooms.

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