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Bearden goes public with BoE disputes

Dear Citizens,

I want to address the issue of school closures and explain why I made, and still stand behind, my initial recommendation.

In the past four years, [the] Fayette County Public Schools [System] has seen a decrease in local and state revenue of $25 million and a loss of student enrollment of 1,800 students. We have too many schools and lack the financial resources to maintain the status quo.

Last spring, I recommended to the Board of Education the closure of Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, and Fayette Middle School. I also recommended we utilize Rivers Elementary as a K-5 school. I had three primary reasons for my recommendation:

1. Hood Avenue Primary and Fayette Intermediate were built in 1970 and 1974. Fayette Middle was built in 1986. While these buildings have been well maintained, they are not as modern as our newer facilities.

2. The three schools that would close, because of their desirable location, could be repurposed. In fact, with the current level of support for a College and Career Academy, I can envision one of the closed schools either being used for that purpose, or using the LaFayette Educational Center (the old Fayette County High School) for the College and Career Academy and moving our instructional department to one of the vacated buildings. The other closed schools could provide some much needed rental income to our system.

3. Displaced students would be relocated to attend another, more modern school.

After I presented this to the Board of Education, they directed me to come up with the following three additional options:

1. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Brooks Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

2. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

3. Close Hood Avenue Primary, Fayette Intermediate, Brooks Elementary, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Open Rivers as a K-5 school.

I do not support the closure of either Brooks or Tyrone Elementary. The loss of these two schools would have a detrimental economic impact on those two communities.

Because these are the only two schools in these communities, property values may drop and families looking to move to Fayette would likely choose an alternative community. Some of our children from Brooks would have incredibly long bus rides to get to their nearest school. I do not believe the closure of these two schools is best for kids or for those two communities.

On Monday, August 6th, at the Board of Education meeting, Dr. Bob Todd recommended we add a fifth option. (Citizens may listen to the podcast of the meeting by visiting our website.) This proposal would include the closure of Inman Elementary School, Tyrone Elementary, and Fayette Middle. Todd’s proposal would keep Rivers Elementary open in its current capacity, very much underutilized.

If Inman were to close, because of its remote location, the district would struggle to find opportunities to repurpose this facility. The plan proposed by Todd, and supported by Marion Key, would take our local taxpayers’ investment in facilities and basically leave these two state-of-the-art facilities unattended. I do not and will not support their proposal.

Whether or not Inman, Rivers, and even Bennett’s Mill Middle School should have been constructed is irrelevant at this point in time. They were built. Our community has already invested over $23 million dollars on the construction of Inman and Rivers. They should be utilized to their capacity. My proposal does just that.

I made a recommendation to the Board of Education that I stood behind last spring and I stand behind today. My decisions are always motivated by what I think is best for the community in which I live and the children for whom I serve.

On Thursday, August 30th, we will have our first public hearing on the school closure/redistricting process at 7 p.m. in the Fayette County High School cafeteria. We will meet in small groups to give our citizens a better opportunity to have a voice. You are invited to attend.

Respectfully,

Jeffrey B. Bearden, Ed.D

Superintendent of Schools

Fayetteville, Ga.

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