The fourth meeting of the proposed school reconfiguration 2017-2021 plan was held Monday night at West Gadsden High School in Greensboro.
The reconfiguration, Superintendent Roger Milton explained, was needed to cut costs and help the district with the number of schools being under-utilized.
The savings under his plan would cut costs over $2.5 million.
Currently there are 5,400 students in the District as compared to 15 years ago when there were close to 10,000, Milton stated.
As he has stated in previous meetings, it was not all about savings, it is also about raising salaries and providing more educational programs like art back into the district.
Milton’s proposed plan includes consolidating and closing several schools across the district.
These reconfiguring plans have not been voted on by the school board at this time.
Milton asked the crowd of about 100 to have an open mind about the changes, adding, “Our mission is to provide the best education for our boys and girls.”
Plans, according to Milton, include:
Moving grades 9th through 12th from West Gadsden High School to East Gadsden High School. West Gadsden High will then become a middle school.
Moving grades 4th and 5th from Greensboro Elementary to West Gadsden Middle School with Greensboro Elementary becoming a primary school (PK-3) and West Gadsden becoming a grades 4th through 8th middle school.
In the school year 2018-2019, grades 4th and 5th will move from Chattahoochee Elementary to West Gadsden Middle School and grades 1st through 3rd will move to Greensboro Primary School.
Chattahoochee will become an Early Learning Center with grades Pre-K and Kindergarten.
Gretna Elementary will move grades 4th and 5th to West Gadsden Middle and Grades Pre-K through 3rd to Greensboro Primary School which would result in suspending operations of Gretna Elementary.
Currently Greensboro Elementary is at 63 percent of its capacity with Gretna Elementary at 64 percent.
West Gadsden High School, now a 5th through 12th grade middle and high school, is at 76 percent capacity.
East Gadsden is operating at 54 percent capacity.
A number of folks stood in opposition of the proposed plan, chief among them are board members Isaac Simmons (chairman) and Charlie Frost who represent the areas most affected by the changes.
Simmons, who has been vocal at all of the meetings, said he was opposed to the superintendent’s plan.
He stated that he was a board member when they consolidated Chattahoochee and Greensboro high schools into West Gadsden as well as the merger of Northside and
James A. Shanks into East Gadsden.
He said he agreed that there was a need for one high school, but he opposed sending students 27 miles one way to school.
Simmons said that the one high school should be centrally located.
The money saved by combining schools, he said, would be eaten up in transportation costs.
“Closing schools won’t increase our bank account,” Simmons said.
Board member Charlie Frost also has voiced his opposition to the plan at the three other meetings.
His comments centered around the transportation of the students long distances each day and the safety issues that surround transporting students across the county.
Frost said that the people he had talked with who approved of the plan were those who did not have children in the district.
Many of the people that spoke before the board were from Chattahoochee and, to a person, they opposed the plan.
They did not want to see their elementary school closed.
Tina Henry from Chattahoochee said she was not putting her daughter on the bus to West Gadsden at 6:15 a.m. and had concerns about transporting them so far.
She asked how many kids will be hurt, maimed or killed riding the bus.
Again Chris Moultry, mayor of Chattahoochee, said closing their elementary school would cripple Chattahoochee.
Resident Frances Brown stated that only two seniors at West Gadsden did not graduate last year adding that she would like to know how many did not graduate from East
Brown said that students from the St. Johns and Gretna communities are now being sent to East Gadsden.
She asked why those students could not be sent to West Gadsden.
Safety of the children is my first concern, she added.
Parent Cortez Lopez, who spoke through an interpreter, said he had five children, two in Greensboro Elementary and two in West Gadsden, and like the others he, too, had
issues with the safety of transporting children across the county.
He had moved here, he said, to “help my kids further their education.”
The next meeting will be held at James A. Shanks Middle School in Quincy on March 2, at 6 p.m.