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School closings on BoE menu

The Fayette County Board of Education gave Superintendent Jeff Bearden the go-ahead Monday night to produce a report that could lead to the closure of an as yet undetermined number of schools beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.

Bearden will present the report at a called meeting of the school board on April 7.

The topic of closing schools surfaced last fall as one of a number of cost-saving measures. The conversation at that time dealt with the possibility of closing two elementary schools, opening the new but under-utilized Rivers Elementary School to full enrollment and closing one middle school. Bearden later in the fall recommended that the topic be put on hold for the time being.

The idea of closing schools resurfaced in a larger report by Bearden Monday night, one that centered on cost-saving budget measures that the school board will be facing for the 2012-2013 school year that begins in July.

“(School closures) will cause a lot of reaction and we want to make sure the community is aware,” Bearden told board members. “This will be painful but I think we’ve reached the point that we need to look at it.”

The reason for bringing the school closure topic back is reflected in the ongoing issue of money, both in shrinking revenues and in the rising cost of doing business. Bearden noted the virtual absence of residential building permits in recent years and the loss of more than 1,800 students in the past several years.

Building permits are one of the factors relating to the tax digest which is expected to lose another 8-10 percent this year. Property tax revenues received by the school system are tied to the tax digest. And as for enrollment numbers, each student in the system generates approximately $4,000 in state dollars.

Board member Terri Smith during the brief discussion said she did not know how the board could avoid looking at the issue. Board member Bob Todd and Chairman Leonard Presberg agreed, with Presberg saying that the topic needs to move forward, “Not that anyone wants to.”

Bearden said he would bring closure recommendations, the rationale for the closures and the cost savings that would be realized to the April 7 called meeting.

Bearden did note in the report that enrollment appears to be stabilizing though he did not project any growth in the foreseeable future.

Asked about the comment after the meeting, Bearden said the stabilization he referenced pertained to the number of students leaving the system in the past few months.

A stabilization of enrollment in the past few months notwithstanding, a University of Georgia study performed last year projected a slow but continued decline in enrollment through 2021.

The study by the Carl Vinson Institute results showed the school system projected to lose another 8.1 percent, or more than 1,600 students, over the next decade with the greatest decrease in enrollment coming in the middle and high schools grades and with enrollment inching up in the elementary grades.



Robert W. Morgan's picture

When a similar study was conducted in 2001 by the very same Carl Vinson Institute showed only a modest increase in student enrollment (about 1%) - Who on the school board said - "I don't believe that, look at all the development that is going on around Whitewater and in Tyrone?

And for the bonus round - Did we build any schools since then? And what was the actual 2001-2011 increase/decrease?

Live free or die!

I don't think the parents will be able to stop it this time....wonder which ones will be on the list?

What a mess this all is - so many cuts.

Can't help but wonder why the County Planning Commission couldn't make reasonable predictions based on Building Permits, Real Estate Sales and other available data that would affect not only student enrollment, but future need for infrastructure county-wide. Somehow, I don't get the feeling that all the county agencies/commissions work in consonance toward common goals.

Robert W. Morgan's picture

Then I figured out that planning staff and their volunteers on Planning Commission (both city and county) are reactive to applications rather than being proactive in the actual planning process.

In PTC Todd Strickland was and is the smartest person you would ever want to be involved and Haddix and his parade of clowns threw him out with the trash.

Dopes. There is a lot of untapped talent around and the ego-driven politicos won't tap into it. Dopes.

Live free or die!

Understand--it so happens I personally know a person on the Planning Commission and I know that he is a 100% straight shooter (he and I occupied the same office space for several months during a military crisis situation). Yes, they are volunteers but they have to get guidance & direction from somewhere.

Veritas's picture


suggarfoot's picture

to Smith and Smola's 'political careers' as one of them so fondly refers to her years of self promotion.

Both of them led the charge for more schools when taxpayers and studies were saying don't do it. The teachers and children will suffer for this.

With both of them up for re election this year, they both might want to think about opening a lemon aid stand for a new career.

School Boards throughout the country are experiencing this pain of school closures. No one can blame a board member with the full responsibility of this event. Many invested in Fayette County - not believing that the impending economic crisis could touch the real estate business here where everyone is successful! There are still homeowners in Fayette County who are experiencing difficulty and may have to move their families - meaning a drop in school enrollment.

opusman's picture

Coweta Operates a larger but comparable system on 20 million less revenue than Fayette and is not having to consider closing schools ... Not cutting positions, has a reserve and is in far superior financial shape... Hmmmm.
This issue with Fayette , in large part, lies squarely to blame on the pompous.. Egocentrism .... and pseudo intellect of a few individuals serving on the board..who if you have been following this for the past 6-8 years have ignored various warnings and calls for reason . So lay blame where blame is due..

"Invincibility lies in the defense. The possibility of victory in the attack."

Coweta elected their board, we elected ours. My point, the elected don't shoulder the full responsibility. The electors also have a responsibility. Many members of the community will voice their opinion about school closings. I wonder how many of those have voted in every election. There is no such thing as an unimportant local election. Congratulations Coweta!

I had hoped the podcast of the meeting tonight at BOE would be on-line - no luck - anyone know which schools are on the chopping block?

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