The Effingham County Board of Education approved a one-year revocable license agreement with the state properties commission Wednesday.
The system is waiting for approval from the General Assembly to approve a 30-year lease for the land next to Savannah Technical College. The system plans to build the new career academy on the land.
Superintendent Randy Shearouse said the legislature did not have the opportunity to approve the lease during the last session, and the system must wait until the next session in order to have approval of the lease.
“It’s probably not the best contract in the world, in some ways, to get into,” he said. “I say that. I’m going to explain why I think it’s OK to get into it.”
He said the agreement states at any time the license can be taken away from the school district.
“That’s why I caution us about agreeing to it,” he said.
Shearouse said the state dollars for the career academy, $3.2 million, are available first.
“We’ll spend the state dollars before we spend the local dollars,” Shearouse said. “If something happens in this one year time, we’re not going to spend any local dollars on this project. I feel like in a year we’ll have a 30-year lease, and we’ll spend local dollars then.”
Board Chairperson Vera Jones said she felt if the state had put that much money toward the project in the next year, it will give the system more leverage for the lease.
Shearouse said he does not think the system will spend all of the state dollars on the project prior to approval of the lease.
Assistant Superintendent Greg Arnsdorff said the system has created a relationship with a member of the technical college system and will create a relationship with the new president of the college.
“We have an advocate that this is the model program of the state,” Arnsdorff said. “There is no program in the state of Georgia like the Effingham project. We are the only public school building adjacent to a technical college, and so they understand that and they want to keep us as an example of what things should look like.”
Shearouse said there will be other policies that will need to be looked at from a state level with the project that is currently planned.
“Right now state facility dollars couldn’t be spent on this because the way it is written up currently, you can’t use state facility dollars on property you don’t own,” Shearouse said.
He said the uniqueness of the project could cause officials to consider changing policies or going about projects in a different way.
“I think it’s going to be truly wonderful for our students,” he said.
He said he does want to make sure the best interests of the students are met, and that is why he cautioned the board about the contract.
“I think after the legislature meets next session that we’ll have that 30-year lease, and I feel good about it,” Shearouse said. “We’re getting a $6 million building for $3 million locally for 30 years at least.”