MOULTRIE — The group is called Citizens for the Children of Colquitt County. Its purpose is to promote a special local option sales tax to continue improvements of the Colquitt County School system. In essence, it would be a continuation of the existing special tax that was approved by voters four years ago.

And heading that group of some 15 to 18 citizens is Brooks Sheldon, retired banker, who is active in numerous community causes and organizations, including the Archway Project, now in its third year.

“We’ll actually kick off the campaign the first week in January,” said Sheldon. “We’ll be talking to various clubs and organizations about this effort, educating the public on how these monies would be spent.”

The vote takes place on Feb. 3, 2008, the same time as the general primary election. Under new laws, a special local option sales tax question cannot be a special election for that purpose only, said Schools Supt. Leonard McCoy.

The Colquitt County Board of Education has called for the sales tax (ESPLOST) vote. If passed, it possibly could go into effect July 1, 2008. That’s when it is expected that the $23 million target of the current sales tax will have been collected. The existing tax runs a maximum span of five years which would be the end of 2007. However, if the specified funds are collected prior to the end of five years, that is when the tax is stopped.

McCoy already has met with some community leaders and outlined the details for which the tax would be applied. At the crux of the plans is a concept that would get the 9th grade out of the present Colquitt County High School.

The high school has 2,300 students, which McCoy said probably makes it the second largest high school south of Atlanta and one of the largest 12 to 15 in the state. The largest south of Atlanta would be Lowndes with about 3,000 students.

McCoy said the average high school population in the state is somewhere around 1,300. The heavy population at CCHS has been a bone of contention for many in the community.

“Getting the ninth grade out of the high school would help refocus curriculum as well as addressing the social issues that come with that situation,” said McCoy. “This population issue becomes even more critical as new graduation mandates come into effect.”

The following is a breakdown of how the anticipated $34.3 million from this tax would be used.

• Agricultural Science Center, $791,250. This would involve continued development on 25 acres set aside for agriculture and science instruction at the Darbyshire site.

• Bus garage, Phase II, $1,928,540. This would expand facilities to include meeting rooms and offices for maintenance, transportation and the Program for Exceptional Children.

• Colquitt County High School, $1,714,375. This would provide for window/door replacements, electrical extensions, plumbing improvements, reworked administration area, enhanced dining/patio area, library modernization and three new canopy locations.

• Doerun Elementary, $722,675. This would include the remodeling of the cafeteria and kitchen and provide for an enhanced entrance.

• Ninth grade relocation, $13,434,807. This is the largest single item in the list and includes relocating the ninth grade from CCHS, expanding facilities at both Gray and Williams middle schools, restructuring school organization to provide for housing all students in grades sixth and seventh at Williams Middle School and grades eighth and ninth at Gray Junior High. Also, it would allow utilization of additional space at Colquitt County High School to enhance alternative school opportunities.

• Norman Park Elementary, $369,168. This is for electrical retrofitting of the gymnasium. HVAC installation as well as addressing a fuel oil tank issue and existing soils removal.

• Odom Elementary, $1,120,410. These funds would enlarge the administrative area, provide a new media center, remodel the kitchen and expand the cafeteria as well as creating three classrooms from existing library and administrative space.

• Okapilco Elementary, $4,580,471. This would provide for mobile classrooms to house students presently in 10 classrooms that are of 1930 vintage. The present building would be demolished and a new facility would be constructed with 16 classrooms, kitchen, cafeteria and expanded media center. The plans also call for the construction of a gymnasium.

• Soccer, $199,395. Construct dressing and concessions facilities.

• Sunset Elementary, $2,793,429. Renovate all areas except those constructed in 2006, 1995 and the gymnasium. Also, this includes the addition of two classrooms.

• Technology, $1,919,510. Provide for computers and other equipment in all classrooms appropriate to the needs of students.

• Tennis, $379,800. Construct 12 tennis courts.

• Mack Tharpe Stadium, $1,711,737. Replace all buildings except the field house.

• Track, $844,000. Construct a track, including field events provisions to meet requirements for hosting a regional meet.

• Transportation, $1,848,000. Provide for the purchase of four new school busses per year and update the video camera system to digital and other improvements.

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