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Board hears presentation about Heards Ferry Elementary, Riverwood International Charter School facility options

At its recent work session, the Fulton County School Board heard a workshop on the possible redevelopment of the site housing Heards Ferry Elementary School and Riverwood International Charter School. The complete presentation can be watched online and viewed through BoardDocs.

Over the past several months, a team of architects, engineers and program management consultants have been preparing master site plans, performing feasibility studies and due diligence, as well as preparing estimates, budgets and timelines of the two construction projects.

Using that information, Patrick Burke, the school system’s deputy superintendent of operations, shared several scenarios with the school board in which the schools’ conjoined property could be developed. One scenario includes rebuilding Heards Ferry Elementary on the existing property and moving forward with the slated renovation and addition project at Riverwood that is part of the school system’s current capital program.

Burke presented that while reconstruction of Heards Ferry using a three-story prototype would be feasible, the constrained site’s unique and challenging topography would require extensive retaining walls on the property. The school’s parking would be impacted as well as its playfields throughout the construction process.

Burke also spoke of the option to move Heards Ferry Elementary to another site within the school’s attendance zone. As part of the redevelopment analysis, school system staff has been simultaneously seeking land to potentially relocate the school as well as exploring options to rebuild the school on the current property. Moving the school off-site could create a better situation for students at Riverwood, he said, and allow for future expansion.

Riverwood, which has had multiple additions and renovations since it was first built, is scheduled to receive a 26-classroom addition and major renovation work. Burke addressed the community’s question of whether the school should eventually be replaced, stating that the district would move forward with the current addition/renovation project but would explore options of how that addition might eventually be repurposed and contribute to a replacement school.

Burke also presented a site plan showing how both a new Heards Ferry and a Riverwood replacement, if approved under a future capital program, could be rebuilt together on the same property. However, in that scenario, the size of the property continues to be an issue, as locating both schools on the 50-acre site is already a challenge. Typically, a new elementary school site is 15 to 20 acres while new prototype high schools are located on 50 or more usable acres. Extensive retaining walls also would be needed throughout the property, and if both projects were to be rebuilt, the property would experience nearly four to five years of ongoing construction. In some cases, the high school’s athletic fields would not be usable for several years.

Although the school board had many questions, it did not make any decisions on the redevelopment scenarios, but directed school system staff to study additional, more creative prototypes for new schools.