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Expansion nearly complete at two South DeKalb schools

12/27/2013, 6 a.m.
The new two-story, $4 million classroom building (far end) at Miller Grove High School includes seven classrooms, a new drama room, and an office area.

Students at Martin Luther King Jr. and Miller Grove High will get welcome relief from overcrowded conditions in January and construction is on track for occupancy by July at Southwest DeKalb High.

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County building inspectors are set to do a final walk through at Martin Luther King Jr. High’s $11 million addition on Jan. 8

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Project managers say finishing touches on Southwest DeKalb High’s 83,816-square-foot Fine Arts Center will be completed by September.

The three construction projects costing $42.8 million are part of the DeKalb School System’s SPLOST IV expansion and improvement project. That’s down $7.4 million from last summer’s projected total construction cost of $50.2 million.

Deputy SPLOST IV Program Director John Wright said the district was able to save money several ways.

“At MLK we needed to make roof repairs but it was under warranty which saved us $1.5 million,” Wright said. “We also had lower bids than expected from contractors on certain construction items and efficiencies in the building process at MLK and Miller Grove that added up to big savings.”

County building inspectors are set to do a final walk through on Jan. 8 at MLK’s gigantic $11 million addition. Kerby Bullard, principal of the Lithonia school, hopes to get a certificate of occupancy after the inspectors check for safety and code compliance.

Ribbon cutting is scheduled for Jan. 21, the day after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The school is the only one in Georgia named for the late civil rights leader.

“We hope to move in by the end of January, depending on how quickly we can get furniture moved in and make sure the computer wiring is okay,” Bullard said.

The two-story, 76,728-square-foot building has already dramatically changed the look of the campus. The school on Snapfinger Road contains 31 new classrooms and a science and IT room along with a ninth-grade academy that includes drama and chorus rooms and a cafeteria.

Students and parents are excited about the new space.

PTSA president Evelyn Cunningham said the expansion will banish trailers from the campus.

“At one point we had 40 to 50 trailers,” she said in July. “A lot of students, mostly ninth-graders, have had to take classes in trailers since the school was built in 2007.”

Rain posed challenges

Miller Grove High students are getting a two-story classroom building costing $4 million. It will include seven classrooms, a new drama room, and an office area. A tech-science-food lab will be renovated.

John Wright, deputy SPLOST IV program director, said it should be ready to open by Jan. 31.

“It could open sooner depending on final walk through and inspection, but that’s the date we gave Principal Matthew Priester,” he said Dec. 23.

At Southwest DeKalb High, the construction of an 83,816-square-foot Fine Arts Center, and heating, air conditioning and fire sprinkler renovations is costing $27.2 million.

The school has been awaiting the expansion and renovations since 2004.

The new wing will house a 640-seat auditorium and a two-story block with 31 instructional classrooms, including computer, math and science labs; special education rooms; chorus, drama and band rooms to accommodate 300 students; and an amphitheater.

It cost $27.2 to complete the project – $16 million for construction and $7 million to equip and furnish. Project managers say they hope to have the building ready for occupancy by July with finishing touches on the complex completed by September 2014.

Construction on all three projects was challenged with heavy rains all summer and into the fall.

Wright said it caused some delays but wasn’t significant.

“We were able to make up the time for the most part,” he said.