Its still not clear whether its possible -- or even sensible -- to move the Hutchings Career Center into the empty Macon Promise Center, then shift Bibb Countys central office into the Hutchings site on Riverside Drive.
But Thursday, interim Bibb County school Superintendent Steve Smith said the system will not leave the Promise Center building vacant. The system is paying $575,000 a year to rent half the building for the next decade, plus hundreds of thousands of dollars in other payments toward the facility.
Smith said the facility shouldnt be wasted, and it could allow a better partnership between Hutchings vocational programs and the nearby Central Georgia Technical College. It would also open up the central office site at 484 Mulberry St. to be leased out or sold.
The reason were doing this is to operate more efficiently, Smith told The Telegraph. If the Hutchings swap isnt done, the system will find another use for the Promise Center, he said.
Many of the details remain unclear, including whether the Promise Center on Anthony Road would have enough space for a hoped-for increase in enrollment for Hutchings students. The system will soon look at renovation estimates and space needs for all the buildings.
Its too early to tell if this will ever materialize and become a reality, Smith said at a news conference Thursday. But we wont know if we dont study it.
Smith said he expects to make a recommendation to the school board in December, when the board may also be reviewing the rest of a five-year facilities plan.
Smith said revenue from the current educational sales tax is supposed to be building five new elementary schools. But Bibb County enrollment is shrinking, and he expects at least two charter schools to launch next year, so the system wouldnt need all five. That could allow the school board to repurpose money for renovations to support the moves.
The Promise Center was planned to host tutoring, family counseling and other services in neighborhoods that need the help. A federal grant intended to help wasnt approved last year, and the federal government isnt taking applications this year.
Smith said the concept of the Promise Center is a good one, though if he had been in charge when the deals were made the school system wouldnt have sold off the building as surplus, then essentially paid for its renovations with rent money.
He said he hasnt heard anyone speak against the idea of moving Hutchings and the administrative offices. Thats notably different from the controversy when the central office moved into 484 Mulberry St. about two decades ago, he said.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.