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Future of 4 Fayette schools now depends on BoE vote

Most elected bodies would consider 225 people showing up for a meeting to be a large crowd.

That many citizens showed up Feb. 25 for a public hearing conducted by the Fayette County Board of Education on potential school closures, and the meeting venue — the 900-seat Sams Auditorium — seemed nearly empty.

As with previous meetings attended by as many as 900 citizens, the Monday night meeting was populated with residents asking that board members find alternatives to closing up to four public schools. The school closure conversation is expected to be decided at a March 4 called meeting.

Up for potential closure are Fayetteville Intermediate School, Tyrone Elementary School, Brooks Elementary School and Fayette Middle School.

A number of the citizens during the meeting reiterated many of the objections to the closures that have been made since the initial conversation began in mid-2011. And many of those centered on what would be the predicted destruction of the Tyrone and Brooks communities, predictions of falling property values and the expectation that businesses would leave the area.

While there were several who advocated for keeping FIS open, the majority spoke on keeping the schools in Brooks and Tyrone open.

Several of the speakers at the meeting asked that when the closure vote comes, the schools be voted on individually rather than as a group of four.

As in other meetings, some residents said the school board should look at cutting a number of “dead weight” school system employees as a way to offset the closures.

In all, the school board has stated that a total of approximately $15 million in cuts is needed to offset falling revenues, to adopt a balanced budget in June and to avoid deficit spending that would essentially put the Ga. Dept. of Education in charge of Fayette’s public schools.

Of that amount, school closures would save approximately $3.2 million. The remainder of the $15 million in cuts will come in the form of between 200 and 300 school system employees losing their jobs at the end of the school year in June.

The issue of school closures will likely come to a close on March 4 when the school board will hold a called meeting at Sams Auditorium at 7 p.m. Interim Superintendent Dan Colwell said Tuesday he anticipates that the board will take a vote on the closures.

The called meeting will likely have few other agenda items, Colwell said.

As is customary, called meetings do not include public comments.

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