Official: School district needs to close six schools

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comMay 15, 2013 

Get ready to go through these public hearings to close schools again next year.

This $40 million budget shortfall the Muscogee County School District is trying to fill by, in part, closing Edgewood Elementary School and Marshall Middle School is a portion of a long-term financial crisis district officials expect to address in their developing five-year plan.

Myles Caggins, MCSD's facilities and operations chief, shared that news during Wednesday night's public hearing at Edgewood, attended by about 80 residents and lasting 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The district needs to reduce its 34 elementary schools to 30 and its 12 middle schools to 10, Caggins said. So next year, more parents and students and staff might be in the position of Edgewood and Marshall, trying to argue against closing.

Cusseta Road and Muscogee elementary schools already know they will be merged into the new school that is scheduled to open in August 2014. The difference for the next schools on the hit list, Caggins said, is that they will receive more of a warning than Edgewood and Marshall.

Caggins explained district officials received an email April 12 that notified them about the $21.1 million cut in state funding. So this plan is the best MCSD officials could do in the tight window they have until a budget must be presented June 3, he said. Other options, such as rezoning the entire district, "take a lot more consideration than the time we have now," he said.

That explanation didn't satisfy Marvin Broadwater Sr., who insisted any organization facing such a financial crisis would come up with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.

"If you don't have options, you don't have recourse," he said. "You guys in the administration are very smart. There's got to be other ideas."

That other option, Caggins said, would be 13 furlough days.

But that would be more fair than closing two schools, countered Latoya Feliciano. Furlough days are spread evenly around, so the entire district bears the burden, not only a segment, she said.

"I wouldn't ask my children to have bologna while I have steak," she said.

Bob Hutchinson, a substitute teacher, said he has worked in every elementary school in the district, and Edgewood is among the best. But he also understands MCSD officials have to find ways to cut the budget.

"There are no bad guys," he said. "The district isn't the bad buy. The board isn't the bad guy. But we've got a problem."

Hutchinson also acknowledged school district officials wouldn't serve if they didn't care. Then he emphasized the trust residents put in those officials to make the best decision.

"I've got to depend on the expertise of you, sir, my employee," he told Caggins, "because you're working for all of the citizens of Columbus."WHEN IS THE VOTE?

The Muscogee County School Board is scheduled to vote on the recommendation to close Edgewood Elementary School and Marshall Middle School during Monday's 6 p.m. meeting in the Muscogee County Public Education Center, 2960 Macon Road.

For more information, contact Muscogee County School District communications director Valerie Fuller at communications@muscogee.k12.ga.us or 706-748-2034.ONLINE SURVEYParents can fill out an online survey through the end of the week at www.muscogee.k12.ga.us to provide their input on the proposal to close Edgewood Elementary School and Marshall Middle School.

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