Peach County seeking new high school building

FORT VALLEY -- With very little fanfare but a lengthy executive session, the Peach County Board of Education voted in favor of a resolution to fund a new high school building.

The board opened the meeting with closed-door discussion that neared the 90-minute mark. When members emerged, they voted to pass a personnel report and then voted on a one-cent education special purpose local option sales tax resolution with a stated purpose of funding the new high school. Both votes were unanimous and required no discussion.

“Our current building is 40 years old and needs a lot of remodeling and updating,” said Superintendent Daryl Fineran.

He also noted that $16 million was available in state funding for a new school, as opposed to just $2 million for any remodeling effort.

According to the resolution, the school -- which would replace the current Peach County High School -- would be located in the “central portion of Peach County” between Byron and Fort Valley.

The current high school is near downtown Fort Valley, and a more centralized location would be good for the county’s economic growth, Fineran said.

“I think it’s huge. It’ll put us where we’re not landlocked ... and give us room for growth,” the superintendent said. “I think it benefits the taxpayer and the student.”

If passed by a countywide vote on March 17, 2015, the high school will be funded through an ESPLOST that would begin in January 2016. The county’s current ESPLOST ends its five-year cycle at the end of 2015. For this tax to replace it without interruption, the referendum needed to be in March instead of the November general election because instituting the tax is a three-month process, Fineran said.

“If we waited until November, we would go three months without an ESPLOST,” he said.

The new high school also would include new athletic facilities for all sports. Peach County High School athletic director and football Coach Chad Campbell was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.

While he was excited about the chance to get new sports facilities, he also recognized the need for the school system to keep up with the changing technology needs within the school buildings.

“We want the best for our student-athletes and the best for the students in our school system,” Campbell said.

As part of the personnel report, it was announced that Ken Banter, the school system’s federal funds director, would be retiring to take a state-level position. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6 at 6 p.m. at the board office in Fort Valley.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.