Sandy Springs city officials say their community will offer a better fit for the headquarters of Fulton County’s school system than its current location in south Fulton County.

City Council members Karen Meinzen McEnerny and Chip Collins say the move will benefit Sandy  Springs and the system as a whole. They dismissed criticism that the system is abandoning south Fulton students by moving from its current location on Cleveland Avenue in southwest Atlanta.

“They have been headquartered there for 50 years and things change,” McEnerny said. “The enrollment growth changes. Being adjacent to I-285 they’re still readily accessible to the southern part of Fulton County.”

Collins said the new headquarters will bring jobs to the city and fill up empty office space. He said the criticism of the move doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

“I give no credence to that,” Collins said. “You look at the geography of Fulton County and it’s 60 miles from tip to tip, so Sandy Springs is the geographic center of Fulton County and the Fulton County school board district.”

The new location, on Powers Ferry Road, will provide equal access to schools in both the northern and southern ends of the county, Collins said.

“I would say this new headquarters is equidistant from the schools furthest to the south and the school furthest to the north,” he said. “If they were moving up to Milton, you might have an argument, but that’s not the case.”

School officials say the move will save the district money.

The Fulton County Board of Education on Oct. 15 approved the purchase and renovation of two office buildings to house a majority of the system’s instructional and support personnel. Those employees now are distributed throughout the county.

The Fulton school system will close six of its oldest buildings and relocate the employees into three buildings, the system said in a press release.

District spokeswoman Susan Hale said the cost of moving the office is projected at about $34 million, where the cost of renovating existing buildings was projected to be about $56 million.

The new system administrative center will be located at 6201 Powers Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, the system said in a press release. Other administrative support staff will be housed at 450 Northridge Parkway in Sandy Springs and at 4025 Flat Shoals Road in Union City, the school system said.

“Since I joined the Fulton County School System, I’ve been examining how our central office operates, how it could provide more support to schools and how it could be more efficient,” Superintendent Robert Avossa said in the press release.

“Consolidating our support centers will provide greater service to students and the money saved in operational costs will benefit our taxpayers. These savings can be redirected to the classroom and invested into student learning.”

School officials plan to move the offices by September 2014, the system said.

School Board President Linda Schultz said a factor in deciding to move the central office was the district’s shift in student population.

“We’ve known for years that these buildings were close to the end of their life cycle, but our focus has been on providing quality schools for students and teachers,” she said. “But like older schools, administrative buildings become harder to maintain and costlier to operate as they age. When the time came to consider improved facilities, we knew it was also the time to look at the current location of our administrative centers and whether they were in the right place.”

In the late 1950s, when the current Administrative Center opened in southwest Atlanta in a renovated office building, Fulton’s student population base was mostly located in South Fulton, the system said, and the location was considered the geographic center of the district’s student population. The 2010 Census shows that due to population growth in northern Fulton County, Sandy Springs is now the district’s student population center, the system said.

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