Consultant Eric Bosman of Kimberly-Horn and Associates told the Dougherty County School Board Monday evening that because of declining enrollment numbers the system could consolidate one of its 16 elementary schools with Magnolia being at the top of the list.
ALBANY — Eric Bosman of the design consulting firm Kimley-Horn and Associates had the Dougherty County School Board’s full attention Monday evening as he informed the board of options should school consolidation become a reality.
Bosman told the board that because of slipping enrollment numbers, Dougherty’s elementary school capacity had dropped to 88 percent, well below “the ideal range of 90 to 95 percent.”
The consultant said the one of the system’s 16 elementary schools could be “repurposed,” with the best option being Magnolia.
“Three elementary schools are currently running at 70 percent or below building capacity — Alice Coachman, Live Oak and Radium Springs,” Bosman said. Two others — Jackson Heights and M.L. King — are running under 75 percent. He added three other schools also looked at have had no capital improvements in some time — Northside, Magnolia and Sylvester Road.
Bosman then presented the board with two options.
“The number one option is to consolidate Magnolia and repurpose the building. Send half the children to Live Oak and the other half to Alice Coachman,” Bosman said. “Or you could rezone some to Lake Park, which itself would then have to be rezoned because it would be over capacity.
“Another option is to consolidate Alice Coachman and send those students to MLK and Live Oak.”
Northside, which has seen its share of structural issues and was closed for several weeks at the start of the school year after a massive roof leak, would be a candidate for consolidation except for one thing — its central location.
“If you consolidated Northside, it would cause a ripple effect across the county,” Bosman said. “All the elementary schools on the west side of the river would have to be rezoned.”
Bosman said there was no perfect school consolidation solution.
“We are mindful of disrupting school feeder patterns, but there are never any perfect attendance zones,” he said. “We aren’t here to make any decisions for the board. We look at school capacity, enrollment and geography, but in our experience, I think we would be comfortable in closing one elementary school right now.”
Bosman made no recommendations as to consolidating any of the system’s six middle schools and said he “saw no fiscally responsible way to consolidate any high school” unless future enrollment continues to decline.
In other items, the board voted 5-2 to ask the state for a class-size waiver, giving the system flexibility to add a maximum of five students to a class.
“I’d like to make it clear that just because we are asking for a class-size waiver doesn’t mean we are going to use it,” Superintendent Joshua Murfree said. “This waiver simply gives us the flexibility to go five students above the current limit if we needed to. It just makes sense.”
Darrel Ealum and Carol Tharin were the two “no” votes, with Ealum adding, “I wouldn’t want my child to be in a class with 35 students and one teacher.”
School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman gave the board a CRCT cheating investigation update, saying he had talked to District Attorney Greg Edwards, who said his office was still reviewing individual case files.
“I would have hoped we’d be farther along in the process than we are right now,” Coleman said, “but I expect to be receiving the first group of files shortly. Then we’ll review the files and go to the tribunals.”
The next School Board meeting will be held at noon April 25 at Northside Elementary.