Fayette BoE to consider more school closures for 2013-2014

Now Brooks and Tyrone schools may be on the block

A workshop held May 2 by the Fayette County Board of Education was scheduled to hear the details behind Superintendent Jeff Bearden’s recent recommendation to close two elementary schools and a middle school in Fayetteville and open Rivers Elementary northwest of the city.

But by the time the meeting ended Bearden was presented with four options that could also lead to the closing of the elementary schools in Tyrone and Brooks. The process will pick up again in late summer with a final decision expected in December.

Bearden’s April 9 proposal to close Fayette Middle School, Hood Avenue Primary School and Fayetteville Intermediate School and open Rivers Elementary was cited 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.

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 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 discusses, Chairman Leonard Presberg addressed Bearden saying, “We need to look at a proposal that includes more schools than your original proposal.”

Bearden in response referenced the possible closure if two additional elementary schools, those in Brooks and Tyrone. Those schools have a higher pupil cost due to lower enrollment.

Bearden said closing all four elementary schools and opening Rivers Elementary would bring the county’s elementary schools to a 85-87 percent capacity and would save more than $3 million per year.

The discussion among board members continued, though at the end of the meeting they agreed that Bearden should 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 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.

jwinter
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Not a Zero Sum Game

Cost at Tyrone
The reason, per the articles, that the cost is higher is entirely due to the septic as it is the limiting factor in increasing the number of students. There is a definitive amount of overhead costs in running a school and that has to be spread out over a large number of students to bring the costs down... there certainly are other cost factors in play, but the limitation on students was expressed as the key factor.

Lost Revenue
One of the big problems with closing Tyrone is that it is one of the best schools in the county. Redistricting and closing schools in times of declining enrollment is a fact of life. But doing so in a way that decreases the average quality of education of the students in the county not only works against the purposes of the school board, but also decreases the property values of the homes in those districts as has been shown in multiple studies... Decreased property values directly leads to less property tax revenue which makes it harder to balance the budget in the future... it is not just a cut expense line but will lead to less revenue, not a good thing when you are trying to balance the budget.

g8trgrl
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Current Board of Education

Love the way Janet Smola tried to punt the current closing of school issue to the next school board. She has clearly stated she will not support closing any school in her district. What if all the board members have that attitude. They will get nowhere!

Shoebox
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It just seems so odd

that only a few years ago, we couldn't keep up with all the kids needing schools and now...we are closing the buildings...what happened? Where did all the children go? I raised my kids in this county and it is hard to imagine Hood Ave being closed. It was a fine school with fine teachers, as were the other schools. I know that life is always changing and we have to adapt-so, WHAT NOW? Are we becoming a county of geriatrics focusing on senior healthcare? Can't we still focus on children, too? Isn't anyone out there creative enough to turn those buildings into something useful instead of just letting them stand empty? Very sad.

All Smiles
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Someone forgot some schools to consider in the closing process

I think someone forgot about Peachtree City Elementary. It is much older than the current Fayette Middle School by about 25 years!!! Also, within Peachtree City, they are 3 elementary schools within a 2 mile radius. Peachtree City Elementary, Kedron Elementary and Crabapple Elementary. Crabapple and Kedron are alittle over 1/2 a mile from eachother! Whats with that?

mcg
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Crabapple and Kedron Elementary Schools

Crabapple Elementary was built around 2003 to ease overcrowding at Kedron Elementary (and perhaps Tyrone Elementary as well, I believe). According to the superintendent's presentation, Kedron is at 91% capacity, Crabapple is at 74% capacity, and PTC Elementary is at 104% capacity. So those schools are all pretty full, and if Tyrone Elementary was closed, that would probably fill Crabapple. I agree that PTC Elementary is quite old --I attended school there myself in the late 70's! If PTC Elementary was closed, I'm not sure where all those students would go. Huddleston Elementary (92% full) and Kedron are nearly full, but perhaps some could go to Crabapple as well, if Tyrone is not closed.

Robert W. Morgan
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Don't worry, be happy. School Board on right track now

Just closing the schools - whether it be 4, 5 or even 6 is enough for now. It gets rid of the deficit and that is a big deal when you look at what other counties are going through. Glad they are getting on with it instead of listening to the "oh no, not my child's school" nonsense. Remember parents you are getting a free education for your kids - it is not like you are actually paying for all of it. A family paying $6,000 in taxes on a $400,000 house with only one kid comes closest - they pay about half the actual cost ($8,000 per student per year), the rest of you (with lower tax bills and/or more kids) are getting massive subsidies from the rest of us.

As for alternative uses, just wait a couple years and I predict the private school industry will be booming and operators will want to rent those buildings to use as a private school. Why, you ask. Well, counties like Clayton, Fulton and even Gwinnett will never be able to erase their deficits and they will eventually fail, lose their accreditation and then caring, responsible parents will be seeking out private schools in record numbers. If not that, affordable independent or assisted living for seniors is going to be another growth industry and many schools around the country have already been converted for that - and it is a cheap and easy conversion.

whsdad
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While I agree with much of

While I agree with much of your comment and the general tone, I must take issue with this statement:

"Remember parents you are getting a free education for your kids"

There is no magic money tree that pays for some portion of schools. Whether it be through property taxes, LOST, or federal taxes taken from and returned to the county, public education is a zero sum game and the taxpayers pay 100% of the cost of education. Some families get a better deal that others based on family size, household income, and property value, but there are very few non-commercial properties in FayCo that are providing significant subsidies for anyone else.

Now, when are we going to slap the BoE for deciding it was also in the business of raw land speculation and losing MILLIONS of our education dollars on that folly. Perhaps the BoE now fashions itself oil barrons and should buy a refinery to fund all the buses. Or perhaps they should accept the fact that the gambled with our money and LOST and stick to education, as in "Board of EDUCATION"

Robert W. Morgan
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The point is no one, no one pays more than half

of one student's cost in any given year. Most don't even put a dent into the actual cost from what they pay in property taxes. Sure the funds that come in from the state have been collected in the form of other taxes that someone in that household has paid, but the bulk of what each household pays is from property taxes. An average $250,000 home may have a tax bill of $3,000 per year and if 60% of that or $1,800 is allocated to schools and the actual cost is $8,000 per student per year - wow. If there are 3 kids in the house, that household is taking $24,000 per year out of the system and putting that same $1,800 per year back in. For total cost, you can multiply $24,000 times 12 years and get the total actual cost.

And of course someone is going to say "My kids are out of school and I still pay taxes" - Yep, the school system fronted you the cost, now you are paying them back at $1,800 per year. You'll be all paid up about the time you turn 110.

The main point is that parents who are concerned that little Johnny may have to change schools or bring in some school supplies, might want to consider the financial end of the school business. Not that it should cost that much, but it does.

jwinter
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How about we think a little harder...

And your Medicare payments in a couple years will not be covered by your income taxes either. The tax burden is spread out in all government payment systems whether that be with the middle aged paying for the old in Medicare or the middle aged and non-child raising paying for those who are younger and raising kids as in school education. And educating those children well will be essential to covering your Social Security payments in the future.

The question posed is a suckers choice: "Do we cut funding for schools or do we continue spending more than we need to spend."

The real question should be how do we get the best education possible in the most efficient manner possible. Why is that not the question being discussed? I must admit to knowing little about the City of Fayetteville elementary proposals, but the discussion on Tyrone Elementary speaks to very short-sighted thought.

A major driver of property values in a city (http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/review/10/05/Chiodo.pdf) are a result of the quality of education. Tyrone elementary by various measures of performance is rated as high as first in the state for elementary schools (3rd grade Math and Reading, 2011 CRCT as an example). Some of the kids will go to the reasonably strong Crabapple, some to the decent Cleveland, but a sizable portion likely would go to the pretty crummy Burch Elementary school. With all three schools weaker in school performance than Tyrone, we are talking about a reasonable decline in property tax values and thus less money for education in Fayette County. This is not a zero sum game.

Seriously, is the school board really talking about closing one of the best performing elementary schools in the state because of questions about how to handle the septic system. That's beyond foolhardy. The loss in property taxes alone would offset the investment in fixing the septic system. Please, think before you act people.

g8trgrl
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jwinter

The Board of Education is talking about closing Tyrone due to the high cost per student. The other schools closer to capacity are 2/3 less per student than Tyrone & Brooks. The septic is a separate issue. They know the septic is not going to last much longer & the cost to replace it is huge. Estimates are between $250,000 - $650,000 - when it does go. Don't think the county has that kind of money available. At least you have Smola in your court - at the workshop she said she will not support closing Tyrone. Of course, Key is not thrilled with the closing of schools in Fayetteville. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

g8trgrl
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.

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Veritas
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Not only septic

1.Tyrone elementary has no room to expand or repair the septic system .
2. Tyrone is well below capacity even with the 78 out of area students.
3. Age of the facility itself.
These are the reasons and justifiably so that Tyrone is included.
Fayette county is in dire straights financially and every option should be on the table.
But the main issue no one seems to be addressing is that all of this is for 2013-2014 .
Bearden the NOVA genius ...pffft.. He Has not completed addressing the budgetary issues facing
the system next year..

bringinabroom
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Good post, Morgan ! Numerous

Good post, Morgan ! Numerous points and I agree with all.

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