Sup’t.: Close Hood Ave. Primary, F’ville Intermed., Fayette Middle, 3 of county's 4 oldest schools

Superintendent Jeff Bearden makes a point at the April 9 meeting. Photo/Jon Munford.

UPDATED for print (Wednesday, April 11, 2012) — Fayetteville would lose two elementary schools and a middle school if the Fayette County Board of Education accepts Superintendent Jeff Bearden’s recommendation for cost savings of $1.6 million.

That recommendation came at the April 9 school board meeting, and it included utilizing new and nearly empty Rivers Elementary School northwest of the city in unincorporated Fayette County.

Those recommended for closure beginning in the 2013-2014 school year included Hood Avenue Primary School (grades K-2), Fayetteville Intermediate (grades 3-5), and Fayette Middle School (grades 6-8).

The two elementary schools are side by side on Hood Avenue near downtown Fayetteville. Fayette Middle is at 450 Grady Avenue in Fayetteville.

Bearden said 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.

The recommendation included Hood Avenue and Fayetteville Intermediate students moving to the essentially unoccupied Rivers Elementary on Sandy Creek Road or being redistricted to Spring Hill Elementary (on Bradford Square just off Grady Avenue) or North Fayette Elementary )on Kenwood Road in north-central Fayette County).

As for Fayette Middle, Bearden said many of those students could attend Bennett’s Mill Middle School (on Lester Road in the center of the county) or Whitewater Middle School (south of Fayetteville).

The recommendation, if approved, would the first time in living memory that any school in Fayette County has been closed for cost-cutting or lower enrollment reasons.

On the financial side, Bearden said that since 2010, and including the current 10.39 percent decrease in the county tax digest, the school system has lost approximately $25 million in state and local revenues.

Bearden said closing the three schools and opening Rivers would result in a net savings of approximately $800,000 per school, per year for a total savings of approximately $1.6 million per year.

Bearden said the reduction in staff could likely come through attrition since the school system regularly loses 200-250 employees per year for reasons such as retirement.

Bearden reiterated that nearly all school system expenditures are in personnel.

“Our budget is 90 percent people,” said Bearden.

Closing out the presentation, Bearden recommended that the school board at its regular meeting next week begin considering the proposal and the idea of scheduling two public hearings on the issue. He recommended that public hearings be set for May and June and be held at Sams Auditorium on the old Fayette COunty HIgh School campus.

Bearden asked that a board vote on the matter be held in July and, if approved, that a redistricting committee be formed in early September with a target date of December to present the redistricting plan to the board.

If approved by the school board, the closures would bring the capacity at elementary schools countywide to about 90 percent, Bearden said. Elementary schools are currently at 81 percent capacity, with middle schools at 74 percent and high schools at 89 percent, Bearden added.

Looking at the future, Bearden said he did not expect any upcoming growth in student enrollment.

“We need to be as efficient as we can with the resources available,” he said.

Illustrating the point, Bearden said there were 12 residential building permits issued across Fayette County in the first two months of 2012. In 2011 there were a total of 66 permits and in 2010 there were 79. That compares to the 1,800 residential building permits issues during 2005-20007, he said.

Bearden’s comment on expecting no growth appeared to run counter to the assessment made last fall by a University of Georgia future enrollment study that projected Fayette County to lose another 1,650 students between now and 2021.

Fayette’s student enrollment peaked in 2007 and, today, that enrollment is at the level not seen since the beginning of the past decade.

Also at the Monday meeting, board member Bob Todd noted that another Fayetteville school, East Fayette Elementary, was closed when the student population was moved to new Inman Elementary in unincorporated Fayette County south of the city.

The proposed closure of schools in Fayetteville turns out to have been somewhat prophetic. That idea was suggested by a Tyrone parent attending a Sept. 19 school board meeting where the room was filled with parents from Brooks and Tyrone concerned that their schools might be singled out for closure.

The Tyrone parent said the schools in Tyrone and Brooks should remain open, adding that the more populated cities such as Fayetteville could handle the closure more easily than the smaller communities of Brooks and Tyrone.

Withing the past two decades, the old Fayette County High School campus was decommissioned to make way for a new high school next door. In the past decade, East Fayette Elementary was shut down and students moved to the new Inman school. In both cases, new schools awaited to take the place of the closed schools.

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EARLIER ONLINE ARTICLE:


Enrollment is down, revenues are down. And it was only a matter of time before Fayette County School System Superintendent Jeff Bearden would make recommendations on closing one or more schools. That recommendation came at the school board meeting Monday night and it included closing three Fayetteville schools.

Those recommended for closure beginning in the 2013-2014 school year included Hood Avenue Primary School that houses grades K-2, Fayetteville Intermediate that houses grades 3-5 along with Fayette Middle School.

Bearden said 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.

Age apparently played a role in the recommendation since the three schools, along with Brooks Elementary, are the four oldest schools in the county, Bearden said.

The recommendation included Hood Avenue and Fayetteville Intermediate students moving to the essentially vacant Rivers Elementary or being redistricted to Spring Hill Elementary or North Fayette Elementary, Bearden said.

As for Fayette Middle, Bearden said many of those students could attend Bennett’s Mill Middle School or Whitewater Middle School.

On the financial side, Bearden said closing the three schools and opening Rivers would result in a net savings of approximately $800,000 per school, per year for a total savings of approximately $1.6 million per year.

Bearden said the reduction in staff could likely come through attrition since the school system regularly loses 200-250 employees per year for reasons such as retirement.

Closing out the presentation, Bearden recommended that the school board at its regular meeting next week begin considering the proposal and the idea scheduling of two required public hearings on the issue. He recommended that public hearings be set for May and June and be held at Sams Auditorium.

Bearden asked that a board vote on the matter be held in July and, if approved, that a redistricting committee be formed in early September with a target date of December to present the redistricting plan to the board.

whsdad
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"The recommendation, if

"The recommendation, if approved, would the first time in living memory that any school in Fayette County has been closed for cost-cutting or lower enrollment reasons."

Apparently someone has a pretty bad memory. East Fayette was closed in 2008-2009, with no less than a half dozen articles about in The Citizen.

"or use them for other educational purposes."

Translation: More Administrative Offices. As Mr. Bearden said, his budget is already 90% payroll... Notice that he did not mention all the new furniture the FCBoE just got at the main office.

FCBoE, please don't break the tradition you started with East Fayette. Get on the phone with your favorite contractor buddy and make sure that you renovate the kitchen and the energy management system to the tune of about $1MM before closing each these schools.

Reference:
http://www.fcboe.org/files/board/school_closures2013.pdf

NUK_1
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It's a shame that it has come to this

I feel for the parents/students/teachers who are going to be affected by the financial disaster of FC BOE and there isn't really any other options besides closing schools and the famed "staff attrition."

Unfortunately, when you staff the BOE for about 3 decades with mostly incompetent and a few basically stupid or corrupt people in the mix, this is what happens. Now, everyone suffers for the sins of the past, sort of like what will happen to the overall country in the future when the bills come due and have to finally be paid instead of put-off yet again.

Once the BOE hit the max allowed under law of 20mils for taxation a few years ago, the party was about to end. It's over now and everyone is left with a big hangover and wondering what they did the night before. In this case, it was many hangovers and many bad nights that no one learned from.

I am starting to question the wisdom of having unpaid volunteers in BOE positions when the the job requires a lot of time, effort and intelligence, not to mention it has a helluva lot power to really screw everything up now and into the future. For WAY too long, FC has put some real idiots on the BOE going back to 30 years ago. Clayton co already had to face the consequences along with Atlanta and others. FC is heading that way quickly.

We don't have unpaid people running our cities, counties and the state government...why the hell do we have something like public education being managed by a board of whoever shows up to run for election? This model is failing horribly in Georgia.

PTC Observer
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Nuk_1 - Other options?

It seems that we continually attempt to save the Titanic by moving around the deck chairs.

What we need are radical solutions to failed public policy and "services" like education. We simply need to get government out of education. As you have pointed out above, the government doesn't work and throwing more money at it will not get it to work any better than it does right now. In fact, it will likely make more dysfunctional not less.

MYTMITE
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PTC, sad but true. It seems our country's answer to every

problem is to appoint a committee or a czar. Or even worse to throw more money at the problem, which accomplishes nothing but putting us deeper in debt. It seems like Congress does nothing til the last days of session and then rushes everything through at the last minute--careful planning to cover what they are or are not doing or just lack of planning on their part? Or no time left after attending all those freebees provided by those generous lobbyists? RE: education--I am so sick of them teaching to a test all year long--all this does is make a nervous wreck out of children and teachers and sets the stage for failure. Then to want to tie in raises, job security, etc to test results--just asking for cheating. What has happened to just teaching children what they have to learn? We don't need national testing--just another way for a company to make money off the government. Before we go off on all these tangents we need to get back to students getting a basic education. If you cannot read, write, add, subtract and write a clear thought, it does not matter how much fancy equipment you may have in your learning labs at school. There are too many people with degrees who cannot spell or write a coherent sentence, and this includes teachers and other professionals. Just read the Atlanta Journal and see all the errors in spelling and grammar. When you call them regarding this the reply is that spell-check must have missed it. I think it is more important for everyone to have an education that gives them an automatic spell and grammar check of their own--not rely on a machine. Many people have no idea how to compute taxes on their checks or receipts. We are doomed if we ever have an extended power shortage where we could not use computerized equipment and had to bring out the pencils--the country would come to a halt. Yet, we continue year after year to teach to the test-----and that is just one of the problems. This country needs a general overhaul starting with our politicians and working down. But I am afraid we will destruct before that happens.

Gene61
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School (s) closing

I applaud the idea, lets see if they are able to follow through with it...It should be NEXT year, instead of 2013-2014..

Still believe that we should consider starting school afther labor day here in Fayette county, that also would create a net savings in the long run for fuel cost, and other cost etc etc..

g8trgrl
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New picture of Fayette School Boss

Wow - love the new picture the Citizen put in paper of Bearden - makes him look a little mad!! I will be surprised if this BoE will actually close a school don't know if they will be able to do it. Interesting meeting.....

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