Dougherty County School Board member Darrel Ealum, left, and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard held a joint news conference Friday where they urged the school board to slow down the process of closing two east Albany schools. Both men said they wanted the voices of their constituents to be heard during the process.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty School Board member Darrel Ealum and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard conducted a joint news conference Friday at which they appealed to the School Board to slow the rush to close two schools on the east side of the Flint River.
Ealum represents District 6 and Howard Represents Ward I, both eastside districts.
On Wednesday, the School Board voted to accept a consultant's plan to close Sylvester Road Elementary and Dougherty Middle and to repurpose Magnolia Elementary.
"All we want is for the citizens of east Dougherty County is to have their voices heard in these closures," Ealum said. "I think we are moving too quickly and I'd like to slow this train down a little."
Two public hearings on the matter are set for next week at school administration building. The first at 5 p.m. Monday and the second is set for noon Thursday.
The School Board could then vote on the closures as early as the next board meeting, which is Feb. 11.
"I agree with Darrel that the process is moving too quickly," Howard said. "These closures will impact the surrounding communities and neighborhoods. I'd like for the board to get back with the consultant and see if we can tweak the numbers.
"There is no doubt some schools need to be closed, but why two on the east side?"
Howard feels the the east side is bearing the brunt for most of the county.
"Do I feel like the east side is being targeted? Absolutely. We've had two Winn-Dixies close and a local bank, now two schools?" Howard said. "If something bad happens in Dougherty County, it seems to always happen on the east side. We just want our voices heard."
Ealum added that the closure of Dougherty Middle would have an adverse impact on several neighborhoods
"We are not laboring under any illusions. Some schools need to be closed because the school system is losing students at an alarming rate," Ealum said. "But studies have shown that when community schools are closed, it leads to degradation of the surrounding community.
"We'd just like to see if there are any other options that have yet to be explored."