Lee to close on elementary property

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Lee County School System has almost completed the purchase of 40 acres of property for the site of its new elementary school at the intersection of Robert B. Lee Drive and Lover's Lane Road.

Superintendent Lawrence Walters told Lee County Board of Education members and others at Tuesday's board meeting about the $200,000 purchase.

"It's good property, and we're excited that the process has moved along," said Walters. "Within the next two weeks, we can close on the property."

The new school would be the first in the county that would be located outside of the established Leesburg downtown cluster in which the other seven schools in the system reside. Walters said in late October during the school system's bus tour that the new elementary school would allow the current Lee County Elementary to be turned into the county's second middle school.

Also at the meeting, Transitional Learning Center Director Twila Mathews told the board that the alternative school will be part of a much larger federal stimulus grant with Albany State University. After initially looking into a $15,000 surveillance camera upgrade for classrooms and hallways, Mathews said Lee County's portion of the grant expanded to $170,000 after officials contacted ASU Vice President of Information Technology Virginia Stewart, who is spearheading the grant.

Mathews said the additional funds will allow the Transitional Learning Center to add an 8.5 teacher, who teaches eighth- and ninth-grade combined; an academic behavior coach; and a part-time after-school teacher/coordinator. Mathews told Walters she would know if Lee County's part of the stimulus grant had come through possibly as early as the end of the month or by the end of October.

"I'll certainly keep you posted," Mathews said to Walters.

An increase in Lee County students attending summer school due to math struggles was also discussed at the meeting. Walters said after the meeting that students throughout the state are grappling with Georgia's new math curriculum.

"We're going to have more kids in summer school taking math than we've had in the past," he said. "A couple of weeks ago, some of the math teachers and administrators met with Dr. (Elizabeth) Ragsdale (the Georgia School Board's District 2 state representative) ... and told her our concerns."

Board member Louis Hatcher, who represents the Palmyra District, said he had also received a lot of questions from parents regarding math.

"I'm hearing a lot of concerns from parents and others that we could add another period in the day to take math," he said. "We're just having too many kids taking math in the summer school, and I don't want them to get discouraged. Whatever it is, we're losing too many and they need help. We need to do something."

Walters agreed with Hatcher's assessment and provided a solution.

"In the future, we're hoping to move to a seven-period day so we can focus on the math," he said. "There's just not enough options for students."

Board Chair Sylvia Vann asked Lee County High Principal Kevin Dowling if it was true that some students were taking as many as three math classes already.

"Yes, they are," said Dowling, who was sitting in the audience. "They're trying to keep up, and each year it gets harder for them."

Earlier in the meeting, Walters reported that special-purpose local-option sales tax figures had increased for Lee County.

"Our economy might not be good, but our SPLOST is good," he said.

"It's the best February we've had in three years, right?," Vann said.

"Yes, as long as we're over $300,000, it's good," Walters said.

The Lee County Board of Education voted 5-0 to approve $77,800 to allocate funds for the Lee County Public Library for fiscal year 2011.

"These are really nice people, and their request hasn't increased in three years," Walters said. "We appreciate all that they do."