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School board approves closing four schools, reconfiguring two others

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 8:34 PM
Last updated 8:53 PM
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The Richmond County Board of Education gave initial approval Tuesday to close four schools and reconfigure two others into 6-12 schools.

Before final action can be taken, Georgia law requires the board to hold two additional public hearings for input, which will take place March 26 and 27.

The board recommended the following actions:

-Close Collins K-8 School

-Close Murphey Middle and reconfigure T.W. Josey High into a 6-12 school

-Close Sego Middle and reconfigure Butler High into a 6-12 school

-Consolidate National Hills and Garrett elementary schools by closing National Hills

The scenarios were first proposed by education consultant Bill Montgomery, who was hired by the district last fall to analyze population data and building usages.

Since November, the school system has paid Montgomery Education Consultants about $60,000 for services, according to Charlar Weigle, secretary to the Controller.

Parents and community members at four townhall meetings held earlier this year to discuss the proposals overwhelmingly opposed the closures and reconfigurations.

However, Superintendent Frank Roberson said the changes are being made to address serious enrollment drops at various schools and enhance academic offerings for affected students.

“Realizing that whenever you close a school...that can be emotionally draining,” Roberson said, “we’re simply saying to you tonight that this particular school board and this administration have looked very, very closely at what is in the best interest of the community and the children in our various schools and how can we take limited resources and build, not necessarily physically build, but build in terms of designated educational programming that will benefit our children and benefit the community. That’s been our aim, that’s been our motivation the entire process.”

If the recommendation is finalized, Collins will close in June and those students will be reassigned to Craig Houghton, Wilkinson Gardens and Hornsby K-8 depending on their neighborhoods.

The closure was pitched primarily because the upcoming demolition of Cherry Tree Crossing housing complex has already caused enrollment to dwindle.

According to Cheryl Jones, assistant superintendent for elementary schools, Collins has lost 158 students since August and is currently at 327 in grades K-8, well below the building’s capacity.

The closure passed 6-3 with board members Venus Cain, Barbara Pulliam and Patsy Scott voting no and Jack Padgett absent.

The proposal to close National Hills in June 2015 passed unanimously. With National Hills’ enrollment flatlined at 225 and the recently renovated Garrett less than a mile away, Roberson said the move makes sense.

Roberson said students will benefit from academic programs at Garrett, like an expanding arts infusion program and a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics focus.

The reconfigurations of Josey and Butler, both passing unanimously, would have more gradual implementations.

The board approved moving Murphey eighth graders to Josey in 2015 and having sixth and seventh graders follow in 2017. Sego would not close until 2019, with eighth graders transitioning to Butler in 2018 and sixth and seventh graders following the next year.

In both cases, the district would use capital projects funding to build separate middle school wings, limiting the time the different age groups would interact.

Roberson said both high schools will create honors academy for eighth grade students, Career Technical and Agricultural Education pathways for middle grades, a one-to-one student mentoring program, and a community advisory committee.

Josey will also expand its budding Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics initiative to all grades and both high schools will upgrade security cameras and assign a bus monitor to ride the bus with the students the first year.

Montgomery’s additional proposal to close Rollins Elementary School and move those students to the Sego building will be reexamined when Sego closes in 2019, Roberson said.

Montgomery also proposed building a new K-8 school to accommodate growth in west Augusta and adding a sixth grade to A.R. Johnson Health Science Engineering Magnet School.

The design work for the new K-8 school and construction to house sixth graders at Johnson are already included as contingency projects in the current phase of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax funding. Senior Director of Facilities and Maintenance Benton Starks said building the K-8 school will depend on the passage of the next SPLOST phase.

TOWNHALL MEETINGS

The Richmond County Board of Education must hold two additional town hall meetings for input before taking final action on the school closures. Georgia law also requires the board to run legal advertisements in the local paper, detailing where students will be reassigned, proposed sizes of the new schools, student and grade configurations, total costs, plans for exisiting buildings, and other factors.

The townhall meetings will be held at the central office, 864 Broad St., as follows:

Wednesday March 26

noon to 1:30 p.m.: Collins closure

1:30 to 3 p.m.: National Hills closure

3 to 4:30 p.m.: Murphey closure and Josey reconfiguration

4:30 to 6 p.m.: Sego closure and Butler reconfiguration

Thursday March 27

2 to 3:30: Sego closure and Butler reconfiguration

3:30 to 5 p.m.: Murphey closure and Josey reconfiguration

5 to 6:30 p.m.: National Hills closure

6:30 to 8 p.m.: Collins closure

Comments (23) Add comment
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YeCats
10922
Points
YeCats 03/11/14 - 09:03 pm
3
2
Close Collins??

My dear 6th - 7th grade alma mater. First time I ever saw the robot, and the runaway mine train.

What an education!

KSL
131379
Points
KSL 03/11/14 - 09:12 pm
4
3
I would hope there is some

I would hope there is some separation between 6th graders and upper classmen.

KSL
131379
Points
KSL 03/11/14 - 09:21 pm
4
3
Countyman, I don't see

Countyman,

I don't see anything about adding classrooms to accommodate 4 more grades in those high schools. Has that been left out of the story? Or do those schools have empty classrooms due to shrinking enrollment.

Were I a Richmond County taxpayer, I would want to see figures on the tax savings.

KSL
131379
Points
KSL 03/11/14 - 09:22 pm
3
2
I am looking to you because

I am looking to you because you always seem to be in the know.

Oedipus
91
Points
Oedipus 03/11/14 - 09:32 pm
6
3
It's time to show

It's time to show Superintendent Frank Roberson the door. He been absent too long and his medical condition has affect his judgement.Why you want to put sixth graders with twelfth graders? This will cause a lot of friction.

showboat
336
Points
showboat 03/11/14 - 09:33 pm
0
0
There are empty classrooms
Unpublished

There are empty classrooms due to low enrollment!!!!

Tracey McManus
46
Points
Tracey McManus 03/11/14 - 09:40 pm
7
1
Middle school separation

KSL - the separation is addressed in the story:
"In both cases, the district would use capital projects funding to build separate middle school wings, limiting the time the different age groups would interact."

KSL
131379
Points
KSL 03/11/14 - 09:49 pm
4
2
Thanks, Tracey.

Thanks, Tracey.

avidreader
3271
Points
avidreader 03/12/14 - 07:24 am
6
2
to Oedipus

You're a funny guy (or gal). I love your verb tense.

Why are you slamming the Super? I can't understand! This guy is making tough decisions that will save the taxpayers a ton of money. Venus Cain is the one that I find most disturbing. She has the Obama mentality -- write the check and worry about it later. Or, don't worry about it!

justthefacts
22204
Points
justthefacts 03/12/14 - 07:46 am
3
2
Say it ain't so

As a member of the 1st grad class of Sego, I say phooey!

seenitB4
88333
Points
seenitB4 03/12/14 - 08:12 am
4
1
Good luck with this

I guess they had to close something...all good things come to an end.

soapy_725
43686
Points
soapy_725 03/12/14 - 08:17 am
1
0
What Murphey MS until 2015? Its down and plowed over?
Unpublished

What Murphey MS until 2015? Its down and plowed over?

seenitB4
88333
Points
seenitB4 03/12/14 - 08:35 am
4
2
Separate from older kids

I see that some say the 6th graders won't be near the older students...I find that hard to believe....they will be on the same bus, right?
I see a huge problem with 18 to 20 years old with 6th graders.

Dixieman
15357
Points
Dixieman 03/12/14 - 09:36 am
6
1
Dixieman's alternative school closing plan

1. Close them all. Every one.
2. Wrecking ball at all school buildings.
3. Fire all administrators, teachers and administrators.
4. Fresh start with charter schools.
There is no cure for the pathetic performance of the RCBOE's government schools except to raze them to the ground, sow salt in the earth, and start afresh.

Little Lamb
46420
Points
Little Lamb 03/12/14 - 10:05 am
2
1
Missing

What is missing from this story is what the school board intends to do with the closed school buildings.

Collins school building and property. What do they intend to do with it, short-term and long-term?

Murphy school building and property. What do they intend to do with it?

National Hills school building and property. What do they intend to do with it?

Sego Middle school building and property. The story says they intend to move some elementary school pupils there. Okay.

I hope someone attends the Town Hall meeting and ask what they intend to do with the surplus property. If past is prologue, they will put plywood over the windows and lock the doors and forget about the properties. Then vandals and vagrants will have fun there. Also, metal thieves will make off with the metal in the air conditioners and in the walls.

nocnoc
43493
Points
nocnoc 03/12/14 - 10:20 am
4
2
Leasing or Selling Closed schools

Why not lower the RCBOE costs of building NEW schools, by selling or leasing the properties of the old closed schools?

Under the GA Charter School Act recently signed in LAW.
Communities or churches could lease or purchase the properties and run schools with greater freedom to enforce discipline and studies. Thus bring up grades and lowering future criminal rates.

If the locations were sold outright
These defunct locations could potentially bring in $Millions$, instead of being a major budget drain maintaining them for years.

Example of helping the community:
I attended Flemming Elem for a brief 1 year.
It was later sold to the Alleluia Community, which now runs a fine school.

Example of RCBOE holding and refusing to sell:
Hephzibah wanted to buy some LONG VACANT RCBOE school property near Hwy 88 and Windsor Spring "Floyd Graham". Politically I heard it was turned down mainly because it was going to be used to set a city Charter School and RC-BOE does not want the educational competition or $$$$ loss.

Sweet son
10555
Points
Sweet son 03/12/14 - 10:56 am
2
0
It ain't over but:

I am so glad that some portion of the Richmond County government has stepped up and made a tough decision. Change is hard but as my Dad says; 'this too shall pass' and it will. Kinda like GRU, isn't it? The hurt is still there and we will never forget but it is passing.

Now the Board just has to stand tall and by it's guns and not be intimidated at any of the upcoming meetings.

auggaguy
39
Points
auggaguy 03/12/14 - 11:26 am
3
2
Exodus

I would never send my 6th grader to a High school. I'm glad my kids are grown.

Get ready for another exodus of Augusta residents to Columbia County.

countyman
20245
Points
countyman 03/12/14 - 12:12 pm
4
3
Facts and not misinformation

Why do we continue to have 3-5 posters that haven't commented in months or years, and then all of a sudden they show up to bash Richmond County? Does somebody have multiple screen names?

The 6th graders won't be going to high school, because the middle school addition will be constructed on a separate part of campus..

The 6th graders at Davidson go to school with high school students every single day..

I hate to break the news to you guys, but nobody moved to Columbia County except for some of the residents in the older parts of the South Augusta.. The same pattern happens all over the US, and then people moving back into the urban core. Over the next few years many people will move from Columbia County into Lincoln/Wilkes etc counties or further out in Columbia County(Appling) and create exurbs..

Many people still moved from Columbia County to Richmond County in the same time period.. Columbia County is no longer the 'new' area or the place for 'white conservative families' like in the past..

It's also funny how nobody can move to another part of Richmond County or to the multiple counties in the CSRA.. They have to move to Columbia County lol..

internationallyunknown
4244
Points
internationallyunknown 03/12/14 - 01:03 pm
6
0
Apples and Oranges!

"The 6th graders at Davidson go to school with high school students every single day.."

Shortcomment
1163
Points
Shortcomment 03/12/14 - 05:42 pm
1
0
Mixing younger and older students

Educators have known for almost 20 years, that the Middle School experiment failed to produce the predicted results promised.

http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/2013/dec/17/middle-schools-failed-expe...

catfish20
272
Points
catfish20 03/12/14 - 08:16 pm
0
0
Floyd Graham School

Hephzibah has owned that school for "years".

corgimom
33232
Points
corgimom 03/13/14 - 01:18 pm
0
0
nocnoc, they can't sell them,

nocnoc, they can't sell them, they are full of lead paint and asbestos. Nobody wants them. They are so inefficient to heat and cool, they were built back in the days when energy was cheap. And their HVAC systems are antiquated and there's no parts for them anymore.

corgimom
33232
Points
corgimom 03/13/14 - 01:19 pm
0
0
They ought to do what they

They ought to do what they did to Lawtnn B. Evans school- tear them down.

But- no money to do that. They should put that on a SPLOST, that would be something worthwhile.

corgimom
33232
Points
corgimom 03/13/14 - 01:21 pm
0
0
"Why do we continue to have

"Why do we continue to have 3-5 posters that haven't commented in months or years, and then all of a sudden they show up to bash Richmond County?"

How it is your business in any way, Countyman, who posts here?

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