Meriwether County Board of Education votes to merge two middle schools into high schools

benw@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 17, 2014 

A loud cheer erupted in the standing room only crowd Friday night when the Meriwether County Board of Education agreed to merge two middle schools into the high schools at Greenville and Manchester to save money.

The five board members voted 3-2 to place the middle schools on the campuses of the Greenville High and Manchester High schools to reduce a projected budget deficit of more than $600,000 for fiscal 2014-2015 school year which starts in August.

The 6 p.m. meeting in the central office in Greenville was over in less than five minutes because most of the details of the proposals were worked out during a 1 p.m. work session, said Superintendent Carol Lane.

Before the vote, the board approved a motion to eliminate Option No. 3 from the three proposals because it would exceed the taxing authority of the board, she said. That left the board with only two options to consider for cost savings next school year.

Under Option No. 2, Manchester Middle School will merge into Manchester High School in the southern part of the county and Greenville Middle would be merged into Greenville High. The merger of two schools will impact a total of 683 students. Manchester Middle has 397 students while Greenville Middle has 286 students.

Option No. 1 would have merged both high schools into one in Manchester and two middle schools into the building in Greenville. The county would have lost the longtime rivalry between the two high schools.

Voting for the middle school option were Board Chairman Leon Coverson, Willie A. Hinton Jr. and Seth McInvale. Board members Allen Parham and vice chairman Robert Hawk voted for the Option No. 1 to merge the high schools and middle schools.

Lane said she had no idea which proposal the board would approve before the vote. “I didn’t have a clue,” she said

After the vote, the board members left the center without making any comments.

With approval of the merger of middle schools, Lane said the budget deficit now stands at $645,000, but it could be lower. The budget would require a 1.44 millage increase for taxpayers.

During the work session, Lane said some cost savings were realized by leasing buses to purchase instead of buying, removing about $450,000 in renovation costs at the merged schools and recognizing Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan that would keep non-classified employees from paying $150 in health insurance costs.

“We are guesstimating the best we can,” Lane said. “It could be better. I don’t see how it can be any worse.”

When the children start school in August, Lane said only seventh and eighth graders will be at the merged campuses. Sixth graders will not be part of the campuses because parents didn’t want the younger children on the high school campus although the schools will be separate.

Some parents were happy about the vote.

Jimmy Dyer of Manchester is happy with the vote because it kept the high school competition in place.

“We probably should have consolidated in the 80s when this came up, to build a big school in the middle of Meriwether County,” he said. “Manchester High has always been on the south side because it is the city school. If it had been in the middle of the county, now I would say consolidation would have been the best thing. I am glad the way it worked out. They’ve got a lot of tradition in football here.”

Dyer also said he thinks the education level will be better at one school.

Katherine Stephens, a mother who will have a child in middle and high school in Greenville, supports the merger. “It would be great because they will be together in an emergency situation,” she said. “They are not separated.”

Stephens said she was concerned about longer bus rides for children, waking up earlier and getting home later from school and safety of the children. “It all worked out for the children in my eyes,” she said. “The decision today will affect their ability to learn and their ability to decide. I want the best for my children.”

Lane said she will implement the change to the best of her ability but she was concerned about people who didn’t make it to the meeting.

“You also have to think about all the people who weren’t here and what they wanted,” she said. “We will try to do what’s best for our children and I’m hoping and praying we don’t have to revisit it again. I’m hoping the economy will hold.”

A loud cheer erupted in the standing room only crowd Friday night when the Meriwether County Board of Education agreed to merge two middle schools into the high schools at Greenville and Manchester to save money.

The five board members voted 3-2 to place the middle schools on the campuses of the Greenville High and Manchester High schools to reduce a projected budget deficit of more than $600,000 for fiscal 2014-2015 school year which starts in August.

The 6 p.m. meeting in the central office in Greenville was over in less than five minutes because most of the details of the proposals were worked out during a 1 p.m. work session, said Superintendent Carol Lane.

Before the vote, the board approved a motion to eliminate Option No. 3 from the three proposals because it would exceed the taxing authority of the board, she said. That left the board with only two options to consider for cost savings next school year.

Under Option No. 2, Manchester Middle School will merge into Manchester High School in the southern part of the county and Greenville Middle would be merged into Greenville High. The merger of two schools will impact a total of 683 students. Manchester Middle has 397 students while Greenville Middle has 286 students.

Option No. 1 would have merged both high schools into one in Manchester and two middle schools into the building in Greenville. The county would have lost the longtime rivalry between the two high schools.

Voting for the middle school option were Board Chairman Leon Coverson, Willie A. Hinton Hr. and Seth McInvale. Board members Allen Parham and vice chairman Robert Hawk voted for the Option No. 1 to merge the high schools and middle schools.

Lane said she had no idea which proposal the board would approve before the vote. “I didn’t have a clue,” she said.

After the vote, the board members left the center without making any comments.

With approval of the merger of middle schools, Lane said the budget deficit now stands at $645,000, but it could be lower. The budget would require a 1.44 millage increase for taxpayers.

During the work session, Lane said some cost savings were realized by leasing buses to purchase instead of buying, removing about $450,000 in renovation costs at the merged schools and recognizing Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan that would keep non-classified employees from paying $150 in health insurance costs. “We are guesstimating the best we can,” Lane said. “It could be better. I don’t see how it can be any worse.”

When the children start school in August, Lane said only seventh and eighth graders will be at the merged campuses. Sixth graders will not be part of the campuses because parents didn’t want the younger children on the high school campus although the schools will be separate. Some parents were happy about the vote.

Jimmy Dyer of Manchester is happy with the vote because it kept the high school competition in place.

“We probably should have consolidated in the 80s when this came up, to build a big school in the middle of Meriwether County,” he said. “Manchester High has always been on the south side because it is the city school. If it had been in the middle of the county, now I would say consolidation would have been the best thing. I am glad the way it worked out. They’ve got a lot of tradition in football here.”

Dyer also said he thinks the education level will be better at one school.

Katherine Stephens, a mother who will have a child in middle and high school in Greenville, supports the merger. “It would be great because they will be together in an emergency situation,” she said. “They are not separated.”

Stephens said she was concerned about longer bus rides for children, waking up earlier and getting home later from school and safety of the children. “It all worked out for the children in my eyes,” she said. “The decision today will affect their ability to learn and their ability to decide. I want the best for my children.”

Lane said she will implement the change to the best of her ability but she is concerned about people who didn’t make it to the meeting.

“You also have to think about all the people who weren’t here and what they wanted,” she said. “We will try to do what’s best for our children and I’m hoping and praying we don’t have to revisit it again. I’m hoping the economy will hold.”

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