In the wake of increased enrollment, plans to expand and make its current home on South Cobb Drive its permanent campus.
The kindergarten through eighth grade charter school currently occupies the first floor of the old Rich’s building on South Cobb Drive next door to Publix; space that IAS Board Chairman Larry Ramsey says the school’s 800 students have outgrown. Because of this and next year’s increased enrollment projections, he said the board decided to purchase the building outright and construct new classrooms on the second floor.
“We don’t plan on filling it up immediately, but our projections are we’ll be doing the construction this summer and we’ll have it finished with that project when school starts this fall," he said. “We’re anticipating that we’ll have between 1,000 and 1,100 students next year.”
Before the end of the 2010-2011 school year, IAS was affiliated with Imagine Schools and was called Imagine International Academy of Smyrna. , but IAS still sublets the building from Imagine Schools. This is another reason Ramsey said the board was interested in buying the building.
“The building is privately owned and leased to an Imagine affiliate and then that affiliate sublets it to us,” he said. “So we thought just for future planning purposes it would be a better situation to be more in control of our destiny, I guess. So we would have more confidence in what our future would be if we owned as opposed to having this multi-layered tenant relationship.”
Most of the second floor construction will be classrooms, but Ramsey said it will include some special purpose rooms like an art room and a band room. A large multipurpose room will also be constructed to hold P.E. classes and school assemblies, he said.
The renovation will be funded with bonds from the Cobb County Development Authority. Ramsey said the school has been approved for $17 million in bonds, but should only need about $15.5 million, $8.5 million of which will be used to purchase the building.
The renovation will cost about $4.5 million and some of the remaining money will be set aside as insurance that IAS will repay the DDA, he said. Ramsey said the board is currently negotiating with the property owner and plans to close the deal in early to mid-May.
Ramsey said he hopes the school will breathe some new life into the South Cobb Drive corridor.
“I know that Rich’s building was dark for many years after Rich’s and then Macy’s closed it down,” he said. “And we certainly are hoping to be part of bringing that corner of back. There are a lot of vacancies. Publix moved in before us, but we’re hoping to not only revitalize that shopping center, but that corner of Smyrna as well.”
Ward 5 Council Representative Susan Wilkinson agreed.
“I think it’s exciting to see someone interested in investing that area of Smyrna and planning to do renovations,” she said. “Hopefully it will encourage other opportunities in that area, also.”