ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty County Schools Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely confirmed Friday that the School Board will hear a presentation in which Atlanta education consultants Kimly-Horn will suggest that Dougherty Middle and Sylvester Road Elementary schools be closed and that Magnolia Elementary be repurposed.
The presentation will be given during the Board's regular meeting scheduled Wednesday at 11:30 at Turner Rd. Elementary.
The most recent enrollment figures available show Doughtery Middle with 533 students, or about 67 percent of building capacity; Sylvester Road at 465 students, or just over 70 percent capacity, and Magnolia at 560 students, or 46 percent capacity.
DCSS Board Chair Carol Tharin said Wednesday that the closures of Dougherty Middle and Sylvester Road and the repurposing of Magnolia would save the system $3 million-$4 million per year.
"We've been facing declining enrollment for the past several years and now we have fewer than 16,000 students in the system," Tharin said. "It's not an easy decision to make, but it's obvious we need to close some schools.
"These are tough decisions we are facing. No one wants to see their neighborhood school go away. We aren't taking this lightly."
The system currently has 16 elementary schools, six middle schools and four high schools.
The subject of repurposing Magnolia was first broached last April. At the time, it was suggested that the system, which is facing declining local tax revenues and state austerity cuts, could save money by moving students from Oak Tree Psychoeducational Center and the county’s Pre-K program from the old Sylvandale School to Magnolia.
In addition, Tharin said that moving the students from the system's Exceptional Students Program on Corn Avenue to Magnolia also could on the table.
Magnolia's current students could then be moved to M.L. King, Live Oak or Alice Coachman elementary schools, all of which are currently operating under capacity. All three of those schools also are in newer buildings that were built after the flood of 1994.
Rezoning of school districts would be necessary.
Last April, then-chairman James Bush offered a blunt assessment of the situation. "We have too many schools and not enough students, and we don't have enough money," he said. "But we have to be fair about it."
Any possible closures would require two advertised public hearings before the board could vote on the matter.
Should the board approve of the closures, any member of the community could file a petition keeping the schools open for the next 30 days. The process would then involve gathering the signatures of 25 percent of the county's registered voters to force a ballot referendum.