December 3, 2019 Marietta: The Lemon Street Grammar School is seen at sunset on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, in Marietta. The historically black elementary school was closed once the city school system was integrated. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton
Photo: Curtis Compton/Curtis Compton

Dip in revenue forces Marietta schools to delay central office project

A drop in sales tax revenue has forced Marietta City Schools to delay its project to construct a new central office building on the site of a historically black high school.

The school system has put on hold its plan to build a new district headquarters on the site that once housed Lemon Street High School, which served black students until the late 1960s.

Chuck Gardner, the school system’s chief operating officer, said Superintendent Dr. Grant Rivera recommended delaying the project after the district saw a decrease in Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue collections for the month of March. Gardner said that number was about $125,000 lower than what the system anticipated.

“It’ll be interesting to see what the April collections do,” he said, adding that report will be available by the end of the month.

RELATEDMarietta moves ahead with plan to renovate segregation-era school

The Marietta City School Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to delay the project for an indefinite period of time. Plans call for the system to build the new central office building across the street from Lemon Street Grammar School on the site where the historic high school stood before it was demolished in 1967. It will feature architecture inspired by the elements of the high school building.

The Marietta City School System wants to construct a new central office building that would feature a recreated facade of the old Lemon Street High School (Photo provided by Marietta City School System)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It will also include a museum offering an overview of the Marietta City School System from its founding in 1892 to the present, including information on the segregation era, which ended in 1967 when all Cobb schools were integrated.

The museum will be assembled in conjunction with Kennesaw State University’s Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books. The building will also have a community meeting room and meeting space for the Board of Education.

PHOTOS | Historic Lemon Street Grammar School tour before renovations

Gardner said that while the building will be delayed, the system will place museum items in the renovated grammar school until its permanent space at the central office is ready.

Marietta City Schools will move ahead with renovating the existing grammar school to house classroom space for the students enrolled in the district’s Performance Learning Center, which allows students who may have jobs or children to attend school on a flexible schedule. That project is out for bid and should come before the Marietta school board for approval at its June 9 work session, Gardner said.

6/14/2019 — Marietta, Georgia — The exterior of the old Lemon Street Grammar School, located at 350 Lemon Street, in Marietta, Friday, June 14, 2019. The Marietta City School System has announced it will use the historically black school as classroom space. (Alyssa Pointer/
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The grammar school renovation could begin later this year. Gardner said the central office building project orignally was expected to start soon after renovations to the grammar school were done, which was projected to be around January 2021.

RELATEDMarietta schools system plans office at historically black school site

Other school system projects are expected to continue because the funding has already been set aside. They include renovations at Park Street and Dunleith elementary schools and the renovation and addition at Marietta High’s college and career academy.

“We feel like that until we know what the impact is, we want to make sure we prioritize spaces for students over space that would only benefit adults,” he said.

The Cobb County School District said it’s also keeping a close eye on SPLOST collections and other “problems caused by the COVID pandemic,” spokeswoman Nan Kiel said. While it doesn’t have a clear picture on how the funding will change, the district said the amount will be different in its upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

“Once we have a complete accounting of the economic ramifications, we’ll be able to offer a better picture of how our projects will be affected,” said Kiel added.

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