The Hall County Schools Board of Education is planning to sign off Monday, July 22, on a $1.5 million contract for the initial design, surveying and engineering of a standalone Cherokee Bluff Middle School to be developed on a joint campus with Cherokee Bluff High off Spout Springs Road.
The two schools currently share buildings and space.
But with residential growth and increasing student enrollment anticipated in South Hall over the coming years, school officials have deemed this project a high priority.
“We’re getting close to reaching capacity in the existing shared facility,” Matt Cox, executive director of facilities and construction, told the Board of Education during a meeting on Monday, July 15.
The school district purchased a 138-acre site about 15 years ago in anticipation of opening a new middle and high school to serve South Hall.
The Great Recession postponed the need for this development, but with the economy recharged with new residential and commercial growth, Cherokee Bluff middle and high schools were opened as the 36th and 37th schools in the district in the fall of 2018.
Now, school officials are looking to the next phase.
“What is a project that three years from now we might be wishing were completed?” Superintendent Will Schofield asked rhetorically. “I’d say Cherokee Bluff Middle School.”
But it’s going to take a lot to get the middle school open – from money to time.
The state Department of Education must approve the site for development, a process school officials said is currently underway.
And, ultimately, the middle school’s fate is at the mercy of Hall County voters.
“As of today, we can’t (build it),” Schofield said. “We don’t have any money.”
In March 2020, voters will decide whether to support another five years of a one-penny sales tax (E-SPLOST) to support school construction and other development projects.
If approved, the school district would also be able to issue bonds to help pay for the project’s costs.
School officials said they plan to host public meetings this fall to unveil a priority list for projects and gather input from the community. It’s also a way to sell voters on the potential benefits of the tax.
According to a timeline that Cox presented to the board of education, the earliest Cherokee Bluff Middle School would be ready to open is January 2022.