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Further school consolidation on table for Floyd

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With enrollment in Floyd County Schools continuing to decline, the planned closing of McHenry Primary School could just be the beginning of the difficult decisions school system leaders face moving forward, as consolidating schools will be under strong consideration.

“There’s gonna be hard decisions,” said Board Member Jay Shell during Tuesday’s meeting.

“The need is clear,” said Superintendent Jeff Wilson, while addressing the school personnel in attendance. The school system needs fewer facilities, he said, because sustaining 19 schools is not feasible under a predicted enrollment drop of more than a 1,000 students over the coming years. And the decision comes down to keeping that many schools and cutting staff, or merging schools to keep staff aboard and teaching to lower class sizes, he said.  

“We’re going to have to be very creative,” said Wilson, during his first board meeting of the school year, adding that teachers and administrators are the most important piece of a school system, not the configuration of schools.

The school system is down 144 students at the start of this school year as compared to early last school year, Wilson said. But what has dropped even more is the FTE — full-time equivalent — count, which incorporates student enrollment and the services needed by students to formulate QBE — quality basic education — funding from the state.

Overall enrollment is around 9,000, a total decline of 2,500 students from when it was at 11,500 students years ago. This enrollment decline represents millions less in funding that the school system receives, with an average of $8,000 in funding for each student.

Deputy Superintendent April Childers told board members that for the past eight years, there has been between 150 and 200 fewer students each year.

Currently, two elementary schools are already ineligible for receiving state funding for projects, said Director of Facilities David Van Hook during caucus. And by next year, four more are slated for losing eligibility for special facilities funding — projects related to art, media, music and PE, he continued. A school system does not receive project funding for schools with enrollment of fewer than 200 students.

The system is moving forward with plans to close McHenry Primary at the end of this school year. Teachers and students will move to Pepperell Primary for the 2019-2020 school year, while those in other positions at the school will be absorbed into other areas in the system.

During caucus, Van Hook briefed board members on what is required moving forward to phase out the school. For the school to be closed, there must be two public meetings held for the public, and they must be advertised in advance.

At those meetings, school system officials must present information on how the consolidated school will be organized and what will happen to the McHenry Primary building once it is closed. Dates for when the meetings will be held have not been set.

For the last item on the agenda, Coosa High head football coach Todd Wheeler took to the podium to make an announcement. After a new trophy was pulled from its box behind him, Wheeler surprised Glenn White in announcing the award was named in honor of him.

White, the director of student services for the school system and current president of the executive board of the Georgia High School Association, came up to hold the trophy before it was handed over to the inaugural winner.

The Glenn White Award went to Armuchee High, who finished last year with the highest ranking out of the four Floyd County high schools in the Georgia Athletic Director’s Association Director’s Cup standings for their class. Schools collect points from how their athletic teams in every sport finish their seasons.

White thanked his colleagues for all they have done for him in his decades-long career in education, over 20 years with Floyd County Schools.