During its March 10 regular session, the Bulloch County Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to approve a real estate sales contract for the possible purchase of three contiguous parcels of land. This will be used to construct a new SEB High School.
The purchase price is $2,350,000, which is about $26,419 per acre. The 88.95 acres is owned by Mac’s Landing, LLC.
Located next to the current Southeast Bulloch Middle and High School complex on Brooklet-Denmark Road, combined with an adjacent 25 acres of land the Board previously obtained in two separate purchases in 2019, it gives the school district a 114-acre tract on which to build a new Southeast Bulloch High School and athletic complex. The earlier two purchases were for $262,500 (21 acres at $12,500 per acre) and $51,087.50 (4.087 acres at $12,500 per acre).
Local investors purchased the land on December 28, 2021 from three different property owners after the Bulloch County Commission approved a zoning change to allow the development of a subdivision. Over 600 citizens signed a petition through Change.org in an attempt to stop the zoning request.
Moving forward with new SEB High School
It is the school system’s intent to move forward with planning and design as soon as possible, knowing that this is probably going to be at least a three-year project from design through opening.
“We heard an outpouring of community support from families and community leaders in the southeast district who want to keep the new high school close to the current SEB complex” said Superintendent of Schools Charles Wilson.
“The Board explored options of other locations, but this was the most financially feasible and readily available tract of land to suit our facility needs.”
Previous cost estimates for the new Southeast Bulloch High School were estimated at between $55 and $65 million but recent price inflation has distorted the ability to currently project future costs. In addition to other benefits, this plan enables the district to access approximately $10 million in state capital outlay funding for construction of the new school as well as eliminate approximately $7 million in other capital outlay costs that the district would have otherwise incurred. Funding for the construction of the new school will be dependent upon voter approval of the continuation of the district’s Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST), which could occur as soon as the general election in November, 2022.
Wilson shared that he and the board recognize that there are road infrastructure and traffic complications on Brooklet-Denmark Road that need to be addressed, but that they are working with the Bulloch County Commission to explore possible solutions and connections to other existing roads that could improve traffic flow in the area.
“We believe this is the best decision for all five of our schools in the southeast district, as well as for the overall Bulloch County community,” Wilson added.
The Board authorized Wilson to sign the sales contract, which he did immediately after Thursday’s meeting. The Board has asked the sellers for 120 days to conduct a state-required site evaluation of the property to ensure the site meets the state’s requirements for location of a new school. The district will pay the sellers a per diem interest fee of $103 per day ($12,360) until the projected closing date of July 1. The sale of the property is also contingent upon the property appraising for not less than $3,350,000. The sellers have requested this contract clause so that they can access tax benefits related to a charitable contribution for the difference between the purchase price and the appraised value.
Five Year Facilities Plan
The Board of Education voted (6-2) at its May 13, 2021 regular session to add the proposed construction of a new Southeast Bulloch High School to its five-year facilities plan. This will enable the district to seek partial funding from the Georgia Department of Education for construction of the new school as mentioned above.
The revisions to the plan also included the following: (1) convert the current Southeast Bulloch High School to become Southeast Bulloch Middle School; (2) convert the current Southeast Bulloch Middle School to become a new upper elementary school for grades four and five to serve all Southeast Bulloch area feeder elementary schools (Brooklet, Stilson, Nevils); (3) Convert Brooklet, Stilson, and Nevils elementary schools to serve pre-kindergarten through grade three.
These revisions to the five-year facilities plan are predicted to provide longer-range balancing to school capacity levels for the Southeast Bulloch area schools, keep them aligned, and avoid imposing unnecessary school rezoning across Bulloch County.