SAE School finds a new home in Mableton

The SAE School, a private school in South Cobb, is planning to build a $100 million campus in Mableton after winning approval from the Cobb Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Thirty-four parents and others came out to support the school’s bid to rezone part of a 49-acre tract off Veterans Memorial Highway, with several breaking into applause when the board voted 4-1 in their favor with Commissioner Bob Ott opposing.

SAE, which opened in 2013, has struggled to find a permanent home for a growing student body of 300 pre-school through high school students.

“This is probably the most viable application that has been brought forward to the board,” said Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents the area.

Last year, the school was denied permission to build in an industrial area near the Chattahoochee due to safety concerns. It is currently located on Mableton Parkway.

Attorney Garvis Sams, who represented SAE before the board, said the new campus would be “situated perfectly” in terms of the demographics and infrastructure of the surrounding area.

“There’s been tremendous support for this in the community,” Sams said.

Jimmy Arispe, the school’s founder and CEO, said he was inspired by his now 11-year-old son, Jake, to open a school with a different educational philosophy. SAE keeps a year-round calendar with frequent week-long breaks, and emphasizes hands-on learning. All students are also required to take martial arts.

“We’re a project-based learning school, so our kids are creating things that demonstrate their learning,” Arispe said. “We’re not asking them to memorize facts and just spit it out on a test at the end of the week.”

The first phase of construction, expected to be completed in 2017, will total about $21 million, with the total projected cost estimated at $100 million to come from tuition and donations. Yearly tuition averages $10,500, Arispe said.

Tokea Morales of Mableton, whose toddler daughter goes to SAE, said she was “ecstatic” about the new campus, which is close to her home.

“We fell in love with their mission and their staff,” Morales said. “I really believe in the school.”

Ott voted against the new school out of concern for the effect of increased traffic to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.