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Parents voice concerns over school merger plan

Sego-Butler consolidation criticized

Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 10:18 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014 1:01 AM
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Parents and community members met at Butler High School on Monday to voice again their reservations about a proposal to merge two middle schools into their feeder high schools.

“How are you going to protect the children from the teen pregnancy, the sexual abuse, the violence, the bullying, the exposure to guns?” asked Dawn Creele, whose two sons would be affected by the changes. “How can you expose them to things the 17-, the 18-, the 19-year-olds are exposed to when they are so young and innocent at that age?”

The third town hall meeting held to discuss various proposed rightsizing scenarios focused Monday on closing Sego Middle School and merging those students into Butler High School in 2019, a reconfiguration also being proposed for Murphey Middle and T.W. Josey High schools as early as May.

Last month, Philadelphia-based education consultants proposed six reorganization scenarios to solve facilities issues in the district: close Collins K-8 School; reconfigure T.W. Josey High into a 6-12 school to take in Murphey Middle students; reconfigure Butler High into a 6-12 school to absorb Sego Middle students; relocate Rollins Elementary to the Sego building; consolidate National Hills and Garrett elementary schools; and build a new K-8 school for west Augusta.

A town hall meeting at Josey last week produced similar concerns from parents – fears about teen pregnancy and fighting, and general uneasiness about blending young sixth-graders with high-schoolers as old as 20.

Sego and Butler were selected to be merged because both have seen significant drops in enrollment over the last decade.

Now at 629 students, Sego has lost more than 300 students since 2003, and Butler’s enrollment of 795 is 440 less than a decade ago, according to data provided by the school system.

Along with eliminating the costs of running two under-used buildings, the merger would provide academic opportunities for the middle school students, said Debbie Alexander, assistant superintendent for instruction.

By moving to Butler, students would have access to dual enrollment courses, Advanced Place­ment, more per­sonalized learning and Science, Tech­nology, Engineering and Mathe­matics programs, Alexander said.

If the Board of Education approves these proposals at its meeting March 11, the district would use capital projects money to build a new middle school wing onto Butler and Josey, keeping the age groups separated.

However, the majority of parents who spoke at the town hall meetings say they don’t believe separate wings would protect vulnerable students.

“I’ve done my job as a parent, but right now, my 11-year-old, he’s not prepared to go to sixth grade and be around older boys,” said parent Natasha Harrison. “When he gets around those older boys, in order to fit in, I just think he might make some bad choices even though I raised him to do the right thing.”

Harrison asked why the board has not considered merging Murphey and Sego instead to form a comprehensive middle school, saving money for the district and keeping the school age appropriate.

Superintendent Frank Roberson reiterated several times that all the parents’ opinions would be taken into account when his staff makes a recommendation for the Board of Education to vote on next month.

Board of Education member Jimmy Atkins said he has many of the same concerns expressed by parents. However, he pointed to the magnet schools in Richmond County that blend middle- and high-school students with few disciplinary issues – even the alternative program houses grades 6-12 cohesively, he said.

Atkins said the board members are taking all these concerns seriously and have not made up their minds on a plan yet. But with a budget crisis in Richmond County, he said, something has to change.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to do something with enrollment going down at so many different schools,” Atkins said. “At this point, we have to do what makes the most sense for the district, but most importantly what makes the most sense for the children.”

BE HEARD

One final public meeting will be held before the Board of Education votes on these proposals March 11. The final hearing will focus on the proposed merger of Garrett and National Hills elementary schools.

• Tuesday 6:30 p.m.: Garrett Elementary School, 1100 Eisenhower Drive

PROPOSED CHANGES

• Close Collins K-8 School

• Reconfigure T.W. Josey High into a 6-12 school to take in Murphey Middle students (Murphey would close)

• Reconfigure Butler High into a 6-12 school to absorb Sego Middle students (Close Sego)

• Relocate Rollins Elementary to the Sego building

• Consolidate National Hills and Garrett elementary schools (close National Hills)

• Build a new K-8 school for west Augusta

Comments (12)

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Dixieman
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Dixieman 02/11/14 - 07:13 am
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The older teens...

...should be leaders, role models, examples, etc. and not thugs and threats to younger teens. What is our country coming to?
Another almost irrefutable argument for private school and expanding charter schools.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 02/11/14 - 09:08 am
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So...where did they go?

“The bottom line is we’ve got to do something with enrollment going down at so many different schools,” Atkins said.

Have you lost that many students, or have you lost that many citizens/families?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/11/14 - 09:13 am
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Collins

From the story:

Philadelphia-based education consultants proposed . . . reorganization scenarios to solve facilities issues in the district: close Collins K-8 School; . . . build a new K-8 school for west Augusta.

Why not just bus the west Augusta students to the Collins facility?

We heard a former school board trustee on the radio a couple of weeks ago saying how the school board has poured a lot of local money and tons of federal grant money into Collins school over the years. The facility is a showcase among the elementary and middle schools. Use it. That's what buses are for.

countyman
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countyman 02/11/14 - 01:30 pm
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Growth

The school board is using the term 'West Augusta', but many of the new single family homes are located on Jimmie Dyess, Belair rd, and Gordon Hwy near Grovetown..

Collins is located off 15th street near Cherry Tree and Josey...

The new homes are making both Sue Reynolds and Langford become overcrowded. They've recently expanded Sue Reynolds and now their bringing the IB wing to Langford..

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/11/14 - 02:27 pm
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Transportation

Like I said, Countyman, that's what the buses are for.

griff6035
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griff6035 02/11/14 - 02:48 pm
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How about this

Move Josey students to Butler, and use Josey for the Alternative school.

countyman
16791
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countyman 02/11/14 - 03:03 pm
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Reality

Little Lamb.. Never going to happen in a million years....

The demographics of the students are totally different...

Augz79
887
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Augz79 02/11/14 - 07:27 pm
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Closing Josey

"How about this
Move Josey students to Butler, and use Josey for the Alternative school."

Merging TW Josey into Butler/Glenn Hills/Laney is what would be most logical (but will never happen). Many Josey students are suburban and actually closer geographically to Butler or Glenn Hills -- but are bused to TW Josey, right outside the old city limits, as a hold-over from the former 1970 desegregation order. However, closing Josey would be a non-starter because it would instantly become a racially-charged political issue if RCBE tried to close a "black" high school. It would be like Azziz trying to close Laney-Walker all over again.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 02/11/14 - 04:06 pm
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Background

You didn't read the articles from a couple of weeks ago, Countyman. Collins is virtually empty of students because of the demolition of Cherry Tree Crossing public housing. Therefore there will be very little "demographic difference" because the west Augusta students will dominate the demographic at Collins.

YeCats
8918
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YeCats 02/11/14 - 04:21 pm
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We rode a bus

from Sibley Rd. to Collins everyday in 72-74.

And the old heads said we'd never amount to much. Wasn't "tough" enough.

Pops
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Pops 02/11/14 - 10:57 pm
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Before it is all over

with all of the parents now finally deciding to get involved in their kids' education, this whole consolidation thing will turn into one big mess with nothing happening in the way of closures or pairings. The school board is elected and are there to make the tough decisions but will not because like most political types, they don't have the fortitude to do so. Status quo.

triscuit
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triscuit 02/11/14 - 11:16 pm
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I'd put good money down that

I'd put good money down that National Hills will be closed, Collins left open. Draw your own conclusion as to why.

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