Fayette BoE discovers ‘closing’ doesn’t really mean ‘closed’

Sign at Fayette Middle School in Fayetteville before it was closed at the end of May this year. Photo/Maggie Zerkus.

Recently vacated Fayette Middle becomes new home to existing education programs

What began at last week’s meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education as a report on existing facilities quickly became a discussion about the next uses for the recently closed Fayette Middle School (FMS) for which several on the school board said they had no knowledge.

A previous administrative decision to relocate three school system programs to the now-closed school took some of the board by surprise and and left them wondering how and when the decision was made.

Also unknown to some at the meeting was that the alternative school, Mainstay and Open Campus High School programs have already been moved to FMS.

Facilities Director Mike Satterfield in his report said the relocations to FMS would include the Open Campus High School, alternative school and Mainstay program for a portion of the county’s special education students. FMS was one of the four schools closed on June 30.

Both located at the Lafayette Education Center, the open campus program last year served 147 students while the alternative school served 27 students. The Mainstay program housed at Rivers Elementary School, and previously housed at LEC, served 10 students last year, according to school records.

Some on the school board immediately asked about the relocations.

“Why are we putting people in a building we’re trying to divest ourselves of?” board member Barry Marchman asked. “I didn’t think the board’s intention was to begin using it.”

Board member Mary Kay Bacallao essentially agreed.

“To close Fayette Middle School and to have (the three programs) move there didn’t seem to be the intent of the board,” said Bacallao.

Chairman Marion Key after the meeting said she did not recall the idea of the three programs moving to Fayette Middle coming up during the school closure meetings.

Though he was not at the meeting, board member Bob Todd said Monday he did not remember the use of FMS coming up at the numerous school closure meetings held earlier this year.

“The schools were not the physical buildings. (The schools) were the people in them,” board member Leonard Presberg in supporting the moves to FMS.

Deputy Superintendent Sam Sweat said the idea and agreement of using the school for the three programs resulted from prior conversations with interim Superintendent Dan Colwell and the superintendent’s administrative cabinet.

Colwell ended his six-month stint with the school system on June 30 when newly hired Superintendent Jody Barrow began his tenure.

Barrow on Monday said he has not spoken with the board since the meeting to see what direction they might want to take. Barrow also said he will do whatever the board deems appropriate in regard to relocating the programs.

Pertaining to the net monetary loss or gain associated with relocating the programs, Barrow said he expects a net savings because the two or more administrative positions that will not be needed at Fayette Middle School should more than offset the increase in utility costs associated with using the school for the three programs.

There is a factor of the conversation that may or may not have a bearing on any action the board might take with regard to the relocations. Barrow said the year-round staff working in those programs along with the furniture, equipment and supplies used in them have already been moved to Fayette Middle.

Barrow at the meeting said he would like to see the empty buildings available as “spec” buildings to obtain the best value if other parties want to secure them for other purposes. Barrow said such preparation could include formulating plans to release a request for proposal (RFP) document. Barrow added that he believes Fayette Middle will ultimately be used as a school in the future.

The idea of either leasing or selling vacated school buildings, as opposed to re-using portions of them, is a topic that has come up sporadically long before the school board voted earlier this year to close FMS, Fayetteville Intermediate School, Tyrone Elementary School and Brooks Elementary School.

It was nearly a year ago when former Superintendent Jeff Bearden noted that a possible buyer had expressed interest in the central office facility. Bearden suggested that if the building was purchased and if FMS subsequently closed the board could have central office relocated to FMS.

TheRealityCheck
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The Big Switcheroo

Among the reasons cited for closing the four schools was to that they were old, and the maintenance costs were very high (considerably higher than other schools). By moving other FCBOE programs into FMS - invalidates these reasons for closing FMS. Of course, I have to mention one of the other reasons was to save money on Labor by cutting or reassigning staff - which is valid and I assume that goal was achieved. Another thing I'm not sure of is if the instructional units - which were at the base of the cost decision - still counts against the budget.

Why didn't this come up during the public discussion about the school closer? I know there had to be questions about what would happen to the schools after they were closed.

There's something that just feels dishonest about this.

SPQR
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why not

Just make everybody an independent contractor and have them work from home.

Husband and Fat...
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Who didn't get the memo?

The board voted to close the school and I support this decision. Closing the school means closing the school. Move the 3 programs out.

If someone wants to lease the space, then fine, they can as long as the rent covers all the costs to maintain the facility and the county can show a profit. O

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