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Fayette Boe closes 4 schools on split votes

After two recent public hearings, numerous discussions and a wealth of public comments spanning the better part of two years, the Fayette County Board of Education Monday night on split votes committed to close three elementary schools and one middle school at the end of the school year.

Beginning in August Brooks Elementary, Fayetteville Intermediate School (FIS), Tyrone Elementary School and Fayette Middle School will cease to operate. The closures are said to save approximately $3.2 million in operating funds and are a part of a larger $15 million in cuts to be made in coming months. The balance of those cuts will translate into 225 or more school system employees losing their jobs at the end of June.

The vote Monday night had school board members Mary Kay Bacallao and Barry Marchman voting to keep Brooks Elementary open. Voting to close the school were board members Bob Todd and Leonard Presberg and Chairman Marion Key.

The votes to close FIS, Tyrone and Fayette Middle, all taken separately, came on 4-1 votes with Bacallao in opposition.

Each of the votes was preceded by a number of comments from board members explaining their rationale for the votes they were about to give.

It was perhaps noteworthy that the audience in Sams Auditorium Monday night totaled approximately 350 people, more than attended the most recent public hearing on the closures but far fewer than the 900 people that attended the first public hearing. And unlike public reaction at some of the previous hearings and at a number of school board meetings during the past year the audience was comparatively subdued, and with most exiting the auditorium once the votes were taken and the school board had retired to executive session.

Prior to the votes Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat reported on recent meetings with planning department staff from Fayetteville, Fayette County and Peachtree City and with local business leaders and the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce.

Sweat said school system representatives were told by city and county planning staff that though there is a current up-tick in residential building permits the outlook is for only slow growth over time.

A part of the schools system’s financial woes comes from falling property values in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors that have seen Fayette lose approximately 20 percent of its value in the past three years. That is significant for the school system because it receives approximately two-thirds of the property tax dollars generated in Fayette County. In addition, the school system relies on property tax dollars for approximately half of its operating revenue.

Sweat said the meeting with the chamber and business leaders was one that solicited their opinion of the possible school closures. He said the majority at the meeting said they supported the school board in making hard decisions, adding that they want to meet quarterly with school system representatives.

Sweat said the business leaders were also concerned about the potential for losing up to 100 parapros as part of the cost-cutting in personnel to save nearly $12 million once the school board begins the conversations that will lead to the most massive personnel cuts in Fayette’s history.

And Sweat noted the comments of Fayette County Development Authority CEO Matt Forshee at the meeting. Forshee said that the entry of the Pinewood Studio Group in north central Fayette would result in a slow growth process over time, Sweat reported.

Sweat noted that some residents during the public hearings had suggested that the arrival of Pinewood would generate a degree of significant growth in the short-term.



Like everyone else, I am disappointed that we had to close schools especially for the Brooks and Tyrone communities. However, due to the BOE fiscal health in addition to declining enrollment and the decline in the tax digest it was the right decision at this time.

Seems we have one lone member that has decided to take a local mayors political stance to vote against the grain without providing a logical alternative to support the vote. We need leaders to make the tough decisions using logic not emotions or political agendas.

This is just the first of many large cuts, but like the wise sage Samantha states, we will survive.

G35 Dude's picture

Nobody is happy to see these schools close. And everyone including the lone member that you refer to knew how this vote was going to go. Going against the grain this one lone member is, in my opinion, just political posturing. She has already shown that she does not have what it takes to lead.

Newsboy's picture

That's not something I would have said with confidence a month ago, before the Pinewood Studios bombshell. Matt Forshee is absolutely right: This studio complex is indeed a gamechanger for the future of Fayette County, and will prove the catalyst for all kinds of new residential growth and industial development for years to come. Just as nobody could have imagined 10 years ago that the school system would be forced to close schools, who could have predicted that Hollywood would come to the rescue?!

Fayette County is not finished. Families still desire to live here and still willing to make sacrifices to do so. in just the past year, several friends and classmates have moved back home -- from California, Canada, Texas, Nevada -- because of the strong sense of community and the schools. New homes are going up again. The Metro Atlanta job matket is expanding again. People are investing again.

Those schools won't sit idle forever, and whatever cuts must be made now should be seen as temporary. The biggest mistake the BOE could make is eliminating programs (like 5th grade band, orchestra, music, middle school athletics, etc) that have always been our pride and joy.

Why is this school still open, if it was voted on by the BOE to close it?
Using it for any purpose is not a closed school.

Why do we listen to the lies of these people?

Why is this school still open, if it was voted on by the BOE to close it?
Using it for any purpose is not a closed school.

Why do we listen to the lies of these people?

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