Ground has been broken on a new arts center at Dawson County High School.
Construction and grading began last week for a $13 million, 1,000 seat auditorium that will sit beside the high school.
"[The center] will house art, drama, chorus and band," said School Superintendent Damon Gibbs. "We have been planning this for some time."
The project is part of a $36.5 million education special purpose local option sales tax (ESPLOST). Voters approved a new 5-year Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax in March of this year. This is Dawson County's fifth ESPLOST.
The system immediately bonded out $15 million for the center and other projects.
"This building will house four programs. It is planned to go where the tennis courts currently are, adjacent to the gymnasium," Gibbs said. "The stage will sit in the back of the auditorium with hallways and rooms connecting dressing rooms in the back and stage entrance. It's going to be a beautiful facility."
The remaining funds from the $15 million bonds will be used for various projects around the system.
"We will also be doing upgrades to some of our facilities. We also have $500,000 for technology upgrades from this first set of bond money," said Director of Financial Services Jamie Ulrich." We've also got $500,000 for electronic media. We were able to put in media books into the language this year. That is a great help for us."
Other projects for this ESPLOST also include software purchases and a new, lighted tennis court to replace the courts being removed for the performing arts center.
According to Dawson County Board of Education ESPLOST Project Manager Scott Morgan, the new tennis courts will have their own outdoor, fully-lit facility with restrooms and raised-style seating.
"These are going to be really nice tennis courts," he said. "I think it's something the school system will be proud of."
The performing arts center is also being funded by a private donation.
Acting upon the wishes of the Pauline S. Ivey Revocable Living Trust, Trustee Betty Ann Bagley gave a donation of $400,000 to the board to go toward the school system's art program during the board's June 2 meeting.
Ivey, a Cumming resident with close Dawson County ties who passed away last year, had the trust created in March of 2012.
The money is to be split up, with $300,000 earmarked to furnish the performing arts center and $100,000 being split up among the schools for art supplies.
All construction, with the exception of the performing arts center, is estimated to be completed before the start of the 2015-16 school year.