FROM RADIO: Monday morning, Floyd County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wilson and School Board Chairman Chip Hood joined us on Hometown Headlines Radio Edition on WRGA 98.7 FM to discuss the school system’s current enrollment and future trends. You can listen to both parts of the interview by clicking the above SoundCloud post.
Wilson and Hood discussed current enrollment trends, the loss of 150 to 200 students per year in recent years and what that could mean to future school alignments. Wilson was adamant about not adjusting the school “zones” currently in place for the Armuchee, Coosa, Model and Pepperell communities. McHenry is scheduled to close in May at the end of this school year but no other closings have been discussed, says Wilson.
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The community is buzzing this morning about proposed talk of school consolidation within the Floyd County School System. Dr. Jeff Wilson, superintendent, is quick to point out that there are “no plans on the table and no decisions have been made” but that conversations are starting about tough future decisions facing the school board and leaders.
“Talk of consolidation is certainly not anything new in Floyd County. It has been talked about way before I arrived here,” says Wilson who took the helm of the school system on July 1. “We’ve been in a pattern of losing students and seeing our population go down for quite some time.We are simply getting the conversation started now before this becomes a big funding issue.”
The school system has already ready the decision to close McHenry Primary School at the end of this school year because of declining numbers. Wilson says FCS has consistently be losing between 150-200 students each year. As of Wednesday, there were 144 less students enrolled than in 2017-2018 school year. Over the next five years, that will be a decline of approximately 1000 students. Less students means less funding from the state bases funding off the ratio of classrooms to students or QBE, quality basic education ratio.
Wilson says lower birthrates and reduction in median, mid-level priced housing for young families in the area are two of the reasons for decreasing enrollment.
“Now if the community says they want to pay higher taxes and keep all the schools open, we’ll do that, but I don’t see that being the reaction of the community.”
One of the first things the school board will consider is if any changes should be made to plans for the new Pepperell Middle School and renovations of Armuchee High School that are being funding through the new Education SPLOST. Wilson says those projects will certainly happen, but they will take a look at the plans to see if anything should be changed.
“We will look at those projects to see if we if we need to do something differently. We are looking at different properties for Pepperell Middle, so this will play a role in which site is selected. Should the designs be changed for possible consolidation? So this is something that we will look at first before these projects get underway,” he says.
The board and school officials will also begin looking at each school to see where there is extra space, how enrollment figures are changing as well as the facility age. “We have a number of aging buildings and we have to take a look at the cost of upkeep of these facilities when we are not getting any funding from the state to help pay for them,” says Wilson.
One thing the school system is not looking to do is consolidate districts, but just consolidating schools or grades within each district.
“We are not talking about consolidating areas. We know folks want to stay in their community and not have students bused out of district to other schools. We will be looking to see what changes we can make within district areas of combining schools. We may even look at grade areas and revamping schools to make the best use of space by moving grade levels to different schools,” he says.
“I’m responsible for making sure that we are a fiscally sound school system that provides a quality education for our students. That will not change. We are not talking about making changes to the instructional program. We are just looking at how we manage the changing demographics we are facing.”
Wilson says principals, school governance councils, teachers and parents will be a part of future conversations. “Bottom line is that we are going to put it all on the table and look at different options. There is no school on the chopping block right now.”
Join us for Monday’s edition of Hometown Headlines Radio at 8:10 a.m. with School Board Chair Chip Hood and Superintendent Dr. Jeff Wilson on the potential changes in the county school system.