The Richmond County school board approved the changes Thursday night as it moves through its process of "rightsizing" the school system, an effort to use its facilities most efficiently and produce the greatest academic benefits for students.
Beginning next school year, the educational center at Tubman would be used for alternative education, the evening school, the strings program, nontraditional learning for at-risk students and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
That would require moving eighth-graders, the only traditional students left there next year, to Laney, a move that initially concerned board members.
But Superintendent Dana Bedden said the one-year transition would place the students in a separate wing of Laney, allow them to play junior varsity sports and provide the added academic benefit of easing them into high school.
The board's actions also allow Dr. Bedden to do the following:
- Move the alternative school and the evening school from Bungalow Road to Tubman;
- Move the special needs students at Sand Hills to Terrace Manor Elementary School, a school at 57 percent capacity and which is more centrally located;
- Close Bungalow Road, Forest Hills and Sand Hills, a facility the Georgia Department of Education has been warning Richmond County to close because of its poor condition;
- Use either Bungalow Road or Forest Hills as "swing" space to house students when other schools are being renovated. Sand Hills and either Bungalow Road or Forest Hills could then go up for sale;
- Consolidate Hornsby Elementary and East Augusta Middle schools into a K-8 campus;
- Return Monte Sano, Lamar and Milledge elementary schools to housing grades kindergarten through fifth grade, moving their sixth grades back to the middle school level; and
- Explore the possibility of making Collins Elementary a K-8 school.
Dr. Bedden said it's time to be aggressive with the state planning to make more cuts to education funding and the weak economy.
Program Manager Jeff Baker said construction prices are the best they've been in years and the actions Thursday night allow his staff to lock in better deals to renovate affected schools, including Tubman, while stimulating the economy with millions of dollars of sales tax projects.
With the Academy of Richmond County currently over-enrolled, no high schools are expected to be closed as originally was recommended, Dr. Bedden said.
In a separate vote, the board also authorized attorney Pete Fletcher to meet with Ben Allen, the attorney for the plaintiffs in its long-standing desegregation case, to discuss the rezoning of schools to feed Pine Hill Middle, a school on Brown Road set to open in August.
The school board also approved holding a retreat on Feb. 25 to continue discussing the rezoning for Pine Hill and the rezoning of all of Richmond County to create a school-to-school feeder pattern. Dr. Bedden will also make recommendations for consolidating elementary schools at that time.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851or firstname.lastname@example.org.