By Rebecca Gaunt
Community leaders are rallying for huge improvements to the Sprayberry High School campus, which has occupied a corner at the busy intersection of Sandy Plains and Piedmont Road since 1973.
Organizers held a community meeting Monday evening outside the school. Attendees signed up for committees tasked with obtaining the support of local businesses, email campaigning and researching past SPLOST allocations to Sprayberry and surrounding schools.
Megan Bowen has a son who currently attends Sprayberry and two more children who will be there in a couple years. She said she’s extremely proud of what students are achieving and the programs available at the high school.
“The outside needs to reflect what’s going on inside,” she told the audience.
PTA President Jennifer Modi said the school was promised a new gymnasium under SPLOST V. In 2018, the board approved an architectural contract for nearly $1 million dollars, but the project kept getting “kicked down the road.” The Courier reached out to the county regarding the status of the project.
A media spokesperson responded, “As part of SPLOST V, Sprayberry High School’s football field has already been returfed and students will have access to a new world-class gym in the near future. Designs for the new facility will be finalized soon with plans to award the construction contract in September. In addition to the construction of the new gym, Sprayberry will also undergo CTAE renovations and modifications.”
Sprayberry originally opened on Cobb Parkway in 1952 before moving to 2525 Sandy Plains Road. Some in the community say it has been neglected in favor of newer East Cobb schools Lassiter High, opened 1981, Walton High, opened 1975 and Pope High, opened 1987. All three have received significant improvements, including rebuilds and new facilities, from previous SPLOSTs.
In less than a week since forming, the Rebuild Sprayberry High School Facebook group has grown to more than 1,600 members.
Sharona Sandberg is one of the group admins. She is also the president of the Sprayberry Foundation and the Sprayberry Orchestra Parent Organization and coordinator of the annual Sprayberry craft fair. Two of her children have graduated from Sprayberry and a third is a junior.
“I think we have just sat by on the sidelines and watched all of the other schools in our area become these beautiful institutions while ours continues to fall apart and decay with every passing year. We are tired of sitting on the sidelines and we aren’t going to do that anymore,” she said.
After the meeting, Sandberg shared photos from inside the school with the Courier. They show ceilings with multiple missing and broken ceiling tiles and a classroom wall that water runs down and then across the floor when it rains. Other parents described concerns about a lack of stadium railings and appropriate stadium bathroom facilities.
Cobb County School District officials are currently reviewing requests from schools and preparing the SPLOST VI notebook. The November referendum will determine whether to extend the current 1% sales tax. If approved by voters, SPLOST VI funds start collecting in 2024.
Sprayberry is located in Post 4 and is under the purview of board member David Chastain.
“Sprayberry is due for some major renovation, but what that will look like is yet to be seen. A rebuild would be nice, but the experts need to address that at the appropriate time. The current building was designed and constructed in the mid 1970s and needs a 21st century makeover,” Chastain told the Courier in an email. He cited escalating student growth, which was followed by the housing crash and recession as factors that influenced district planning decisions.
“Today, Cobb County is in a better place economically and the Sprayberry High School community is going to benefit,” he wrote.
A rally to draw public support for the effort will take place April 18 at 3 p.m. in the Sprayberry High School parking lot. Participants are encouraged to make signs, bring a chair and social distance. Organizers will sell t-shirts for $10 with the group’s mascot of sorts, a “lipstick pig”, which is how they describe past improvements to the school – lipstick on a pig.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.