A facilities plan that could call for closing some Bibb schools is not “all about the money,” it’s about providing quality education for students, said Superintendent Curtis Jones.
More than 100 people attended an hour-long information session about the district’s five-year facilities plan at Vineville Academy of the Arts. Jones presented district and state findings on building utilization, and attendees were able to ask questions and voice concerns. All eight board members and several district staff members also were in attendance.
The district could opt to close an elementary school to address underutilized facilities. During a work session Nov. 9, Jones presented three initial options for the board to consider: keep schools as they are; merge Riley Elementary into nearby schools; or consolidate L.H. Williams Elementary into Brookdale Elementary.
It’s estimated that the district will have an excess of 91 classrooms in its elementary schools by the year 2022, according to a report from the district.
“We’re doing this because we believe, based on the information we have, we have to figure out how to provide a quality education for kids and be responsible,” he said. “Everybody is doing what they think is best for the kids. Don’t take this action as we don’t think education is important.”
Jones will take feedback from board members and community members into account before making a final recommendation to the board at its Dec. 14 meeting.
Supporters of Riley and L.H. Williams attended and spoke during the October and November board meetings. About a dozen people asked Jones questions Tuesday night. A few expressed concerns about transportation for students sent to new schools. Jones said the district is still looking into this issue but doesn’t want any student’s bus ride to be longer than an hour.
Jimmy Asbell, senior minister of Vineville United Methodist, asked the board to consider community programs like Campus Clubs that could be lost if L.H. Williams Elementary has to shut its doors. The church is a partner in projects to renovate blighted homes in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, and it would be a shame for the school to close when the community is making strides, he said.
The school has a partnership with Macon-Bibb Parks and Recreation and serves the community in many ways, George Fadil Muhammad said.
“The power of the legacy is so deep. It’s a crime to cut into that,” he said.
These community aspects are being factored into the decision, Jones said. If he makes a recommendation to close a school, he will also have a suggestion for how the building can be utilized so it will not be vacant.
Board members take very seriously the decisions they have to make, board president Daryl Morton said. It’s not just about the numbers but a variety of factors, including community feedback. People coming and sharing their thoughts and stories is an important part of the process.