Up to 5 Fayette schools may be candidates for closure, BoE says
he Fayette County Board of Education late this summer will consider closing up to four elementary schools and a middle school to help offset falling tax revenues.
The school board at the conclusion of the May 2 workshop left Superintendent Jeff Bearden with instructions to provide information on the potential closure of Fayette Middle School, Fayetteville Intermediate School, Hood Avenue Primary School, Tyrone Elementary and Brooks Elementary schools. The closure options will also include opening Rivers Elementary School.
Bearden in April had proposed to close Fayette Middle, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and open Rivers Elementary as a way to help offset the school system that is facing significant decreasing revenues from plummeting local tax revenues and falling student enrollment that generates approximately $4,000 per student from state sources.
Each of the schools initially proposed for closure are located in the Fayetteville school board district represented by Bob Todd who, unlike at least three of the remaining four board members, is not up for reelection this year.
The discussion among board members at the May 2 workshop ended with Bearden being asked to develop four optional closure plans for consideration. Those include:
1. Bearden’s original proposal for closing Fayette Middle, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and opening Rivers;
2. Bearden’s proposal and closing Tyrone Elementary;
3. Bearden’s proposal and closing Brooks Elementary; or
4. Bearden’s proposal and closing both Tyrone and Brooks.
The May 2 meeting was scheduled to hear the details behind Bearden’s April recommendation to close Fayette Middle, Hood Avenue and Fayetteville Intermediate and open Rivers Elementary northwest of the city.
Bearden at the outset on May 2 said the goal of the meeting was to identify the schools to be closed, to send that information to the redistricting committee to determine proposed school boundary lines and to bring that information back to the school board at a meeting in July or August.
Bearden then answered the nearly two dozen questions pertaining to the closure recommendation that surfaced at the April 9 board meeting. Bearden in his comments also noted that his rationale for the recommendation included the point that all three schools are centrally located and would provide an opportunity for the school system to rent the buildings or use them for other educational purposes. The age of the facilities played a role in the recommendation since the three schools, along with Brooks Elementary, are the four oldest schools in the county, Bearden said at the April meeting.
The subsequent discussion by the board on May 2 included questions about other considerations such as enrollment, pupil cost, future maintenance costs, operations costs and the elementary-middle-high school feeder pattern.
Noting the additional variables being discussed, Chairman Leonard Presberg told Bearden, “We need to look at a proposal that includes more schools than your original proposal.”
Bearden in response to the discussion referenced the possible closure of two additional elementary schools, those in Brooks and Tyrone. Both schools have a higher pupil cost due to lower enrollment.
Additionally, Brooks Elementary is one of the oldest schools in the county and Tyrone Elementary is outfitted with a septic system that will eventually present financial challenges for the school system, according to school system Facilities Director Mike Satterfield. Essentially running on half a septic system for more than a decade, the eventual failure at some point in the future will leave the school board faced with acquiring sufficient adjacent land to install another septic system or spending $250,000-750,000 to tie onto the town’s limited sewer system.
Bearden at the meeting said closing all four elementary schools and opening Rivers Elementary would bring the county’s elementary schools to an 85-87 percent capacity and would save more than $3 million per year.
The next meeting to discuss the board’s preference on the optional plans is expected to come at a workshop in July or August. The board at that time is expected to make a decision that will provide the school boundary redistricting committee with the information needed to begin its work.
Public hearings will also be held to solicit public input. The entire process is expected to be completed in December in time for the implementation that will take effect in the 2013-2014 school year.