Chamber looks at school consolidation - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Chamber looks at school consolidation

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January 9, 2007

Lowndes County - Should Valdosta and Lowndes County Schools consolidate?  It's a questions that's been the subject of debate in the community for many years.  And it's a question Chamber officials are looking to answer and possible act on soon.

Lowndes County and Valdosta have seen significant growth in the past few years, putting them on the radar for new businesses.

Now the Chamber of Commerce is looking to see if consolidating city and county schools could help future economic growth.  "Its a topic we've had sitting out there for quite some time not and we've all had our opinions," says Chamber Chairman Tim Carroll.

And it's a topic that many city and county school officials stand behind as long as it addresses some key issues.  "Number one, first and foremost, will it be educationally beneficial to our children?  Number two, will it promote diversity?  Number Three, will it be economically profitable to our area?" says Dr. Dan Altman, Principal of West Gordon Elementary.

Chamber officials believe it would.

They say when businesses visit the area, the schools system is something they pay close attention too.  And they often notice a problem.  "And we have two schools systems in the area and one is predominantly black and one is predominantly white," says Carroll.

They say this could be sending a message that the city and county are still stuck in the past and lack diversity, and that could be keeping future employers from locating to the area.  "What we are looking to find out, what kind of impact it has and if it does have an impact that some perceive, than what is the best way to address it," he adds.

They hope by studying this topic now, they can determine if this is a problem, if consolidation would help diversity, and bring in future economic growth.

They will meet with business and community leaders for the next 45 days to see if this is an issue they want to follow this year.  Then they'll bring in an outside consultant, to study whether they believe consolidation could have an affect on future economic growth.