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Funding ready for new elementary schools

LAWRENCEVILLE - Funding is now assured for the construction of two new Gwinnett elementary schools, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced Monday.

The completion of a sale leaseback agreement for the school system's new Instructional Support Center will finance more than 100 new classrooms. The agreement aims to accommodate the growing student enrollment in Gwinnett schools.

"This school year we saw our enrollment jump by a record-setting 8,000 students," Wilbanks said. "In the face of this unprecedented growth, opening more than 100 classrooms ahead of schedule is extremely beneficial. We must continue to aggressively address our need for classrooms through alternative financing methods."

In July, the Gwinnett County Board of Education approved a resolution authorizing the facility's sale to Gwinnett Instructional SC, LLC.

As part of the agreement, the school system will lease the Instructional Support System from the company. The new facility will include classrooms for teacher professional development, school board meeting space and offices for about 700 central support employees.

Revenue from the purchase will go toward the construction of two new schools, which are anticipated to open for students in August 2007. They will relieve overcrowding at Ivy Creek, Harmony and Cooper elementary schools, according to school district spokeswoman Sloan Roach.

The board sold the facility to Gwinnett Instructional for $17 million. As part of the sale leaseback agreement, the company will allow the school system use of the facility, and give the school board the opportunity to repurchase it on July 1, 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, the school district will annually have the opportunity to buy the facility.

"We intend to buy back the facility at the right time economically, but certainly within the 2008 to 2012 time frame," Wilbanks said.

School district employees will start relocating to the Instructional Support Center next week, but the building won't be completely occupied until the spring. In January, the school board will have its first meeting in the new facility.