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Fayette BoE moves Jan. 28 meeting to Sams Auditorium

The Fayette County Board of Education in anticipation of larger attendance will hold the Jan. 28 meeting at Sams Auditorium in Fayetteville. Aside from its regular agenda, the school board will hear a report from the redistricting committee responsible for submitting a plan to close up to four Fayette County public schools.

Sams Auditorium is located at 205 Layette Avenue in Fayetteville. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. The school board meetings on Feb. 11 and March 18 will also be held at Sams Auditorium.

The potential for closing Fayette Middle School, Brooks Elementary, Tyrone Elementary and Fayetteville Intermediate (FIS) is associated with the school board’s requirement to make unprecedented cuts in school system expenses expected to total more than $15 million.

If the schools are closed, the savings would total approximately $3.2 million in what would be largely administrative savings. While significant in terms of money saved, those savings are essentially small compared to the more than $11 million in proposed personnel cuts that will affect schools throughout the school system. Those personnel cuts are likely to mean the loss of jobs to more than 220 school system staff.

The Jan. 28 presentation of the redistricting plan will not necessarily require a vote at that meeting, according to interim Superintendent Dan Colwell, who said the redistricting committee will meet again on Jan. 31.

It will be at the Feb. 11 regular meeting that school board members will be asked to take a preliminary vote on the closure and redistricting issue or give the committee a new charge. If the board takes a preliminary vote, Colwell said two public hearings will be held prior to March 4. Once the public hearings are completed the redistricting committee will meet again on March 8.

The March 18 regular meeting will include the final presentation from the redistricting committee. It will be at that meeting that the school board will be asked for a final vote, Colwell said.

While not a new topic, the potential for closing schools has drawn record attendance at sporadic school board meetings for more than a year. Parents at those meetings, especially those from Brooks and Tyrone, have been insistent that their schools are the centerpiece of their communities and should not be closed.

As for the other millions of dollars in anticipated cuts, Colwell said those specific numbers will be ready in time for the school board’s regular meeting in March or shortly thereafter. And while the board will not adopt the 2013-2014 budget until June, Colwell said he will be recommending that the school board render a decision by April so affected employees can be notified and so that needed preparations for the next school year can get underway.

Having spent down the fund balance over the past few years while not making sufficient cuts to offset falling state revenues resulting from a precipitous drop in student enrollment and falling local revenues through decreases in property values brought on by the recession, the school board is now faced with either making historic spending cuts or throwing the school system into deficit spending, which is illegal in Georgia.

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