Parents have their say at first school redistricting meeting
A group of more than 400 parents turned out Aug. 30 to have their say on what school boundaries lines should look like if the Fayette County Board of Education later this year votes to close several schools in the county.
Held at Fayette County High School, the meeting began with Superintendent Jeff Bearden providing an overview of the economic conditions that led to the two current options for school closures. The majority of the time was spent with small groups of parents meeting in classrooms with members of the redistricting committee and giving their input on a variety of issues.
Bearden in recent weeks laid out the imminent need to cut up to $20 million from the 2013-2014 budget that begins next July. Bearden on Thursday night referenced the decreasing student population, the large number of empty desks resulting from that decrease, the significant drops in state and local revenues and the millions of dollars in cuts that have been made to the school system budget in recent years. Aside from what will likely be many millions of dollars in a potential variety of personnel cuts, one of the few remaining areas to save money is with school closures.
And it is the potential for closing some of the county’s school that led to the formation of a redistricting committee to make recommendations, not on school closures, but on what the school boundaries would look like if either of two school closure options is adopted by the school board later this year. The public meeting and the input from it represented the first step in making recommendations for the potential new boundaries.
Parents and others from the community retired to classrooms in groups of approximately 25 after Bearden’s presentation had concluded. It was in those settings that a variety of questions and concerns were voiced. Some referenced the topic of possible changes in school boundaries, though many of the comments dealt with issues other than school boundaries.
Once in the classrooms, redistricting committee members explained that their charge was first to get input on potential new school boundaries and then, in the coming weeks, to work on proposed boundaries for Option 1 followed proposals for Option 2.
The first option would close Fayette Middle School, Hood Avenue Primary and Fayetteville Intermediate and open Rivers Elementary to accommodate most of the children from the two elementary schools on Hood Avenue.
A second option would close Fayette Middle, consolidate Fayetteville Intermediate and Hood Avenue administratively at the existing campus, leave Rivers as it is now serving some of the county special education students, close Tyrone Elementary and close Brooks Elementary.
A parent in one of the classrooms asked how high redistricting is on the school system’s agenda and whether it should apply to all schools or just those inlcuded in the two options.
Another parent asked why there was talk about closing schools when doing so would not come close to solving the school system’s financial problems.
A parent in another classroom asked how many schools redistricting would affect. The committee member in response said that answer is not yet known.
Parents in a number of classrooms appeared to be the same school or neighborhood. In some of those cases, they expressed the need to have the neighborhood all attend the same school.
In yet another classroom, one parent suggested that the school system look at the entire county, and not be hesitant to look at possible closures in Peachtree City.
Bearden while in one of the classrooms suggested that the parents of children attending Fayetteville Intermediate and Hood Avenue Primary should visit Rivers Elementary.
Once compiled in the next few days, the input from the meeting will be posted on the school system’s website at www.fcboe.org