ALBANY — It appears that consolidation of schools is not the sole domain of the Georgia Board of Regents.
The Dougherty County School Board on Wednesday heard a proposal recommended by Superintendent-designate Ken Dyer and staff to close and repurpose Albany High School and to divide the school’s students among the district’s three other high schools.
Southside Middle School also is to be closed and repurposed under the plan.
DCSS officials say that, based on continued declines in student enrollment, underutilization of system facilities and increased financial challenges, they have developed a school consolidation and rezoning plan that results in systemwide modifications.
“The elementary schools numbers are fine,” Consultant Eric Bosman of Kimly-Horn Associates told the School Board.”The opportunity here stems from Southside Middle being converted into a college and career academy. This all revolves around the middle schools and high schools.”
Bosman added, “The DCSS has been experiencing a steady decline in enrollment since reaching a record high of 16,894 students in 2004 to 14,946 today.”
Most of the sag is at the middle school level.
The proposal now before the School Board revamps education delivery in Dougherty County’s public schools, and Superintendent Butch Mosely said he agreed with the plan.
“We know as educators and planners that rezoning and school closures are the most controversial thing a school board can confront,” Mosely said. “If you look at the numbers and data, you realize that four high schools are unsustainable. If we are truly effective stewards of the taxpayers’ money, this is a decision we had to make.
“The reality is we don’t need four high schools in Albany.”
Included in the proposal is a recommendation to absorb Southside’s student population into the three zoned middle schools, and to rezone the three middle schools and three high schools with common attendance boundaries. This would result in a direct feeder pattern from one middle school to one high school.
Under the plan, Albany Middle School students would be in the same zone as Dougherty High School. Radium Springs Middle School and Monroe High School would share the same zone. Merry Acres Middle School would be in the same zone as Westover High School.
The plan consolidates the administrative programs currently housed at the Walter Judge Academy and the ESP/GLRS (Exceptional Students Program/Georgia Learning Resources System) Complex on Corn Avenue into the repurposed Albany High School building.
At the elementary school level, there will be no changes to the current school zones under the plan. The proposal, however, establishes a direct feeder pattern from elementary to middle to high school, with Radium Springs Elementary School the only elementary school that would have students moving to two middle schools.
Under the plan, Radium Springs Elementary students in the area adjacent to Radium Springs Middle School would go there and then to Monroe High. The majority of Radium Elementary students would go to Albany Middle and then Dougherty High.
The Dougherty High zone would include Northside, Robert Harvey and Turner elementary schools, along with Radium Springs. Monroe High’s zone would include Alice Coachman, Martin Luther King Jr., Morningside and West Town elementary schools, as well as part of Radium Springs. The Westover High zone would include Live Oak, Sherwood and Lake Park elementary schools.
The Oak Tree GNETS (Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support) students currently located at the Sylvandale Complex would be relocated to a new building at Sherwood Elementary School.
The Pre-K program, currently located at the Sylvandale Complex, the Gifted Education Life Lab, currently located at the Lincoln Complex, and the Turning Point Elementary Alternative Education Program, currently located at Morningside Elementary, would be relocated to the former Magnolia Elementary School Building.
At the middle school level, Southside would be closed and the facility repurposed to house the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy (4CA), which, according to 4CA CEO Chris Hatcher, will serve high school students in Dougherty, Baker, Terrell and Calhoun counties.
Students who are currently zoned to Southside Middle School would be rezoned to Radium Springs Middle School.
Students who are currently zoned to Albany High School would be rezoned to Westover High School, Dougherty High School and Monroe High School.
The rezoning plan would establish Pine Avenue and the Flint River as the boundary between the Monroe High School and Dougherty High School attendance zones, except for a portion of the current Dougherty High zone that is adjacent to Radium Springs Middle School.
It would establish the rail line as the boundary between the Monroe High and Westover High School attendance zones, and establish Slappey Boulevard and Palmyra Road as the boundary between Dougherty High and Westover High.
The Oak Tree GNETS high school program currently at Albany High would be relocated to the Oak Tree GNETS middle school site at Merry Acres Middle School.
The proposed plan aligns the middle school and high school attendance zones throughout the consolidation and rezoning process. The proposal notes that DCSS officials have stressed the importance of achieving a direct feeder pattern from elementary to middle school to high school.
The board is expected to schedule two public hearings to gather information on the proposal before voting on it at a later date.