More than 150 people crowded into the Dougherty County School System Board room Monday during a public hearing to discuss the possible closure of two schools and repurposing of another. Many could not get into the room and waited outside in the school administration building's lobby. The large turnout prompted authorities to move Thursday's noon hearing to the Governmental Building's city-county commission meeting room.
ALBANY, Ga. — After two heavily attended public meetings to gather residents' opinions on possible school closures and consolidation, the Dougherty County School Board will hold a "public information session" at 6:30 p.m. today in the city-county commission chambers of the Government Center, 222 Pine Ave.
"This public meeting will be to discuss suggestions and ideas that arose out of the first two meetings," School Board Chair Carol Tharin said. "Our consultant (Eric Bosman of Kimley-Horn and Associates of Atlanta ) will make a presentation and recommendations based on the feedback from those previous public meetings."
This third meeting will be different in that no public speakers will be allowed. Instead, the board will hear Bosman's recommendations and, for the first time, extensively discuss the possible closures before the public.
Late last month, the School Board heard a recommendation by Bosman that Sylvester Road Elementary and Dougherty Middle schools be closed and Magnolia Elementary be repurposed into a education center that would house four separate programs.
As expected, there was a public outcry and the voices were especially loud on the east side of the Flint River.
Shortly after Bosman's recommendation, District 6 School Board member Darrel Ealum and Ward 1 Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard conducted a news conference at which they urged the School Board to not make hasty decisions.
Both men both represent eastside districts in which Sylvester Road Elementary and Dougherty Middle are located.
"All we want is for the citizens of east Dougherty County is to have their voices heard in these closures," Ealum said at the time. "I think we are moving too quickly and I'd like to slow this train down a little."
"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?"
The next regular meeting of the School Board is Feb. 27, but Interim Superintendent Butch Mosley said last week he would not place a final vote on the closures on the agenda for that meeting.
The first public hearing was held in the board room of the school administration building, but it proved too small to handle the overflow crowd. Officials then decided to move subsequent meetings to the larger city-county commission chambers.
Another large crowd is anticipated for tonight's meeting.