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Fayette BoE sets school closing public workshop May 2

The Fayette County Board of Education will hold a workshop on Wednesday, May 2 at 9 a.m. to hear from Superintendent Jeff Bearden on proposed school closures.

Questions by some on the school board at the April 16 meeting resulted in rescheduling the discussion on potential closures. The meeting topics provided by the school system also included bus routes as an item to be discussed.

Bearden earlier this month proposed closing Hood Avenue Primary School and Fayette Intermediate School with the idea of transferring the two elementary schools to Rivers Elementary or being redistricted to Spring Hill Elementary or North Fayette Elementary. Fayette Middle School was also proposed to be closed, with many of those students attending Bennett’s Mill Middle School or Whitewater Middle School.

Bearden recommended that all the closures occur beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.

All three schools are inside Fayetteville and lie within board member Bob Todd’s district, the only one not up for reelection this year. No schools were proposed to be closed in any district facing the voters this year.

The decision to hold a workshop on the proposed closures came after a number of questions were posed by board members Marion Key and Bob Todd.

Central to the questions was what Todd called a lack of analysis and data pertaining to schools systemwide and the cost analysis and rationale pertaining to the closure of the specific schools listed in the recommendation.

A sampling of the questions surfaced by Key and Todd centered on topics such as a request to see the financial analysis that led to the recommendation to close the targeted schools, the number of students living in proximity to the existing schools, whether the closure of other schools was considered, the cost of transporting students to Rivers Elementary that is situated northwest of the city, the vacated schools being promoted as rentable space as a reason for closing them, the criteria for determining which schools should be closed, the rationale besides the age of the buildings that was used to determine that Fayette Middle should close, the consideration given to maintaining the current feeder pattern for Fayette County High School and the rationale for recommending the closure of three Title I schools?

The May 2 school closure workshop will be held at the school system’s central office on Stonewall Avenue in downtown Fayetteville.

In his rationale for the proposal, 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.

From a financial standpoint, Bearden began 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.

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