One hearing to go before BoE votes on closing 4 schools

Fayette County Board of Education members listen to comments at the public hearing. From left, Barry Marchman, Bob Todd, Leonard Presberg, Mary Kay Bacallao, Marion Key and interim Superintendent Dan Colwell. Photo/Ben Nelms.

It is coming down to the wire. More than 200 Fayette County residents on Feb. 14 attended the first of two public hearings on the possible closure of up to four Fayette County public schools.

With one more public hearing remaining on Feb. 25, the Fayette County Board of Education is expected to take a vote in March on which schools will be shut down.

In terms of money, the closure of four schools — Tyrone Elementary School, Brooks Elementary School, Fayette Middle School and Fayetteville Intermediate School — is projected to save $3.2 million. Also on the chopping block in March and April will be up to 250 school system jobs aimed at saving another $11.5 million required to adopt a balanced budget in June.

System spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said that if the school closure recommendation is approved, the majority of students currently attending Tyrone Elementary would attend Crabapple Lane Elementary School while a smaller number would attend Robert J. Burch Elementary School.

The majority of those at Brooks Elementary would attend Peeples Elementary School while a smaller number would attend Inman Elementary School.

Those attending Fayetteville Intermediate School would attend either North Fayette Elementary School, Hood Avenue Primary School or Spring Hill Elementary School.

And those attending Fayette Middle School would attend Bennett’s Mill Middle School.

A recommended map of the new attendance zones, which will be presented to the school board for approval if the recommendation is adopted, can be reviewed at all Fayette County public schools, at the LaFayette Education Center, Bldg. D, located at 205 LaFayette Avenue in Fayetteville and at the county office located 210 Stonewall Avenue in Fayetteville. Maps can also be viewed on the school system website at www.fcboe.org.

In each case elementary schools will be composed of grades K-5 and maintained at a size not to exceed 800 students and middle schools will be composed of grades 6-8 and maintained at a size not to exceed 1,400 students. There are no construction projects contemplated in order to complete these moves, Berry-Dreisbach said.

The school board has not yet determined the future use or disposal of the property on which these schools are located if the facilities are no longer needed for their present purpose, said Berry-Dreisbach. Possible plans would include use by the school system for other instructional or administrative purposes, lease or conveyance to governmental entities for other community purposes or lease or sale to private entities or individuals, she said.

Though attended by more than 200, only 34 people signed up to speak at the meeting that was limited to those wanting to express their thoughts on school closures. Comments were not taken from those wanting to address the accompanying redistricting that would be required with school closures.

Many of those at the hearing have attended previous school board meetings to offer their perspectives on the possible closures. And for some parents, their comments echoed those made at various school board meetings as far back as summer 2011.

As might have been expected, most of the speakers were parents with a child or children attending one of the school targeted for potential closure. And, as has been seen at previous meetings, the majority of speakers was advocating that the schools in Brooks and Tyrone remain open.

Typical of Brooks parents were the comments of Richard Bell who said, “It’s a community with a community school. The school has helped shape the community.”

Another Brooks parent, Jennifer Robinson, suggested that separate votes should be taken on the closures.

Tyrone parent Melissa Hill, a frequent public comments speaker at school board meetings, advocated for leaving the Tyrone and Brooks schools open because both are the heart of their communities. Noting that schools in Peachtree City are never considered for closure, Hill said Peachtree City and Fayetteville could handle closures better than Brooks and Tyrone.

The school board will hold the second and final school closure public hearing Monday, Feb. 25. As before, the meeting will be held at the Sams Auditorium, located at 205 LaFayette Avenue in Fayetteville. School system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach said doors to the auditorium will open at 6 p.m. She said the purpose of the hearing will be to allow a full discussion of the superintendent’s recommendation to close some or all four of the schools.

Berry-Dreisbach said Sams Auditorium was chosen for both hearings due to the large crowds expected. The school board’s January meeting held at that location saw approximately 900 people attending, with most of those present to hear more about the school closures and other cost-cutting measures that will lead to approximately $15 million in cuts from the 2013-2014 budget. Of that amount, more than $11 million deals with the elimination of up to 250 jobs. The disposition of those cuts will likely be a topic of conversation in March and April.

All speakers at the Feb. 25 public hearing will be asked to sign in between 6-7 p.m. and only those who have signed in prior to the meeting will be allowed to speak. Guidelines for speakers will be posted on www.fcboe.org and available at the hearings. The school board also requests written comments or suggestions regarding these plans. Such written comments can be sent to Melinda Berry-Dreisbach, Public Information Specialist, 210 Stonewall Ave., Fayetteville, GA 30214 or emailed to berrydreisbach.melinda@mail.fcboe.org.

g8trgrl
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Joined: 10/31/2007
Only 200 people went to the school closing meeting

I am surprised at the low number of people attending the hearing regarding school closures.....only 34 people signing up - fewer actually spoke. Maybe everyone is planning on going the 25th. I would have thought for sure more people would attend considering how many are going to be moved, if the schools close.

G35 Dude
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Joined: 02/15/2006
g8trgrl-Low turnout

I think most people believe that the decisions have already been made.