By Amy Wenk

Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is moving forward with its plan to address overcrowding at Northside elementary schools.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, the Atlanta Board of Education passed an item amending the authorization to purchase property — reported to be at 4141 Wieuca Road — for the construction of a new Sarah Smith Primary Center.

The board had authorized the superintendent on Jan. 14 to enter into negotiations to purchase property for an amount not to exceed $7.43 million — with the option of a five percent contingency. However, initial offers for the property were countered by the seller, requiring an amended authorization increase to $8.3 million.

APS is seeking to acquire property for a new Smith primary center because the lease for its current space at the Buckhead Baptist Church, 4100 Roswell Road, ends June 2009. According to the final redistricting recommendation, released Feb. 15, a new $16 million center would be ready for the 2009-10 school year.

District 4 board member Kathleen Pattillo, who represents the interests of Buckhead area schools, declined comment on the location of the property acquisition.

“It is still in negotiations,” Pattillo said, noting the land at 4141 Wieuca Road “is one of the properties they are considering.”

The approximately six-acre tract of land was formerly the location of the circa-1933 Upchurch-Kelley House and Gardens. The two-story house and nature preserve was purchased in 2006 to build a residential subdivision with homes starting at $1.3 million. Although the area was graded and landscaped, no homes have been constructed.

According to representatives at Panama Properties, a builder owning two lots at the site, the developer, 4141 Wieuca Associates, LLC., made plans to sell the land instead of constructing the luxury single-family homes.

“We own two lots that we are selling back to the developer,” said Brenda Brevard of Panama Properties. “They had an offer to buy the whole site, and so the offer came back to us and we hadn’t started a home yet, so they asked us if it was something we would consider.”

The creation of a new primary center in the Smith zone is just part of the final recommendations. The proposal also calls for renovations to the Jackson Primary Center, at 4191 Northside Drive, as well as the creation of a new primary center for Morris Brandon Elementary students at 2845 Margaret Mitchell Dr.

It also calls for redistricting attendance zones for Brandon and Jackson. There will be no changes to the Sarah Smith attendance zones.

“We came up with a great recommendation,” Pattillo said. “I believe this recommendation meets the needs of the system, balancing all the different considerations and providing for minimal disruption to our families.”

The board will consider the final recommendation at its committee of the whole session on March 3. Final action will be taken at the regular meeting on March 10.

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