From the latest edition of the Dunwoody Crier:
More delays, frustration at Chamblee High
Parents expressed anger, frustration and a lack of confidence in DeKalb County school officials at Thursday’s meeting to update construction plans for Chamblee Charter High School.
DeKalb communications chief, Walter Woods, broke several pieces of bad news: the completion of the academic wing has been pushed back yet another five months, from August 2013 to winter break December 2013-14, even though demolition permits were obtained in February, construction is not expected to begin until the end of the month, and a recent audit found that the $69 million dollar construction is estimated to be nearly $10 million over budget.
Parents said everyone was growing impatient. “We’ve had students in trailers for almost nine months and nothing’s been happening,” said Linda-Rogers-Williams. “It’s very frustrating for us and our teachers. It is not a good situation.”
Parents complained about the lack of communication. “The project has been put on hold and no one was notified,” said governance council member Belinda Wedgewood, who pointed out that different officials have appeared at each update meeting.
The sharpest criticism came from parent Leslie Marwitz, “We are totally frustrated. What have you people been doing? It’s unconscionable. You have a multi-billion dollar corporation and its in shambles. All we get is ‘we’ll get back to you.’”
Woods tried to reassure parents telling them, “It’s now my job to be the communications liaison. There should be no surprises. We should be completely transparent.” Woods gave parents both his email and cell phone number with a promise that going forward, the communications would improve.
DeKalb officials had a harder time explaining why construction had yet to start saying only that a meeting with the contractor to finalize the project would take place within the next two weeks.
“We have to proceed prudently, judiciously, but we can’t start prematurely,” said Woods.
DeKalb Planning Director Dan Drake confirmed that the school was nearly $10 million over budget because, as reported in last week’s Crier, the $3.5 million natatorium was not included, another $6 million will be spent to comply with the Davis-Bacon act governing union wages since federal bonds are being used, and there have been some additional increases in construction costs and interest payments.
Woods reassured parents that the school board is committed to finishing the school as planned but at least one parent said she did not have “a high level of confidence that that’s what we will see.”
School officials also confirmed that school lawyers are still sorting out whether the $36.5 million shortfall could be covered all or in part by moving some school construction projects from the last Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project to the one just passed. Drake said lawyers had determined it is legal to move some projects, but which ones to move have not been finalized.