Atlanta International School has no plans to leave its Buckhead neighborhood any time soon, but purchasing the building it occupies would allow the school to stay put for years, school officials told neighbors June 4.

“It may not always meet our needs, but it certainly meets our needs for the foreseeable future,” AIS board Chair Deborah Sudbury told about 45 residents during a town hall at the school. “We would like to stay in this Garden Hills neighborhood. We would like to stay here if we could. If we are unable to purchase the property, we will have to think about other arrangements … at some point. You have to think about owning your own home.”

AIS now rents its building, the old North Fulton High School building, and about nine acres from the Atlanta Public Schools. AIS has operated in the building since the mid-1990s and has a lease on the property through 2051, school officials said.

APS now considers the building “surplus property” and AIS  has a “handshake” agreement with school officials to purchase the property in a deal valued at $8.4 million — $6.15 million in cash and $2.25 million in services as a consultant to APS related to its International Baccalaureate programs, Headmaster Kevin Glass told residents attending the June 4 meeting. The purchase has not been approved yet by the Atlanta school board, AIS officials said.

“It would be great for our school and great for our neighborhood,” Glass said. “It would secure AIS in Garden Hills.”

Some Buckhead residents have criticized the proposed sale, saying Atlanta’s public school system may need the building in the future. Some have questioned whether AIS could profit by selling the property in the future for development.

Sudbury said an AIS appraiser had valued the property at just $3.9 million. The value was depressed, she said, because of AIS’ long-term lease. Also, as part of the sale, AIS had agreed with APS that if the property is resold in the next 38 years “we would disgorge the profits to APS,” she said.

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.