By Christopher Smith
It’s been sitting vacant for more than a year, but soon the old Eastbrook Middle School won’t even exist.
“It’s just in terrible shape,” said Mike Ewton, director of operations for Whitfield County Schools.
Members of the Whitfield County Board of Education voted 5-0 at their Monday night meeting to allow the Whitfield County Public Works Department to tear down the building by March 1, 2014. Members of the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners, which oversee major public works projects, also voted unanimously Monday night to agree to the job.
Ewton said demolition could start as early as next month.
The abandoned school was replaced by a newer Eastbrook Middle School, which opened in August 2012. The new school cost $24 million to build and was paid through revenue from a 1 percent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Students and teachers said the old school had become a poor learning environment complete with asbestos, mold and mice.
Ewton said the school system paid approximately $50,000 for a crew to clear out potentially harmful contaminants such as asbestos or freon for the demolishing crew. That cost was budgeted into the $24 million price tag for the new school, he added.
As part of the deal, Whitfield County government will take ownership of the school’s gym, which won’t be torn down. The deal allows the county school system free “priority” use of the gym for 24 months (until October 2015).
“They provide the labor and equipment in exchange for the old gym,” Ewton said. “And they will keep user rights while we build the new gym (at the site of the new school).”
He said school officials are in the “design phase” of a new school gym and have received about $1 million in state funding for the project. A cost estimate for the gym won’t be determined until a design is approved by school board members, he added.
If there is a delay on building the new gym, the agreement allows for Eastbrook to keep using the gym for an extra 12 months (until October 2016).
When the county government takes full control of the gym it will be used for local sports programs such as community basketball, said Mike Babb, board of commissioners chairman.
“Obviously we have to do a little work to the gym,” Babb said. “But it comes with a parking lot. It was basically a good opportunity to expand our access to another gymnasium.”