A proposed charter school in Albany is back on the table as school board members look at other options to deal with the possible school closures.
School board members are slowing down in making a decision to potentially close two east Albany schools. They're trying to listen to the community and find ways to strengthen that area, and a college and career academy could be one way.
Members have been discussing whether to close Dougherty Middle School and Sylvester Road Elementary and re-purpose Magnolia Elementary, due to a declining student population. Those against the plan say it would unfairly impact east Albany. In September board members voted against opening Albany College and Career Academy, but now board members say that might be a solution.
"That brought community members, school system personnel together to provide a program for our children and to consolidate some of our programs that we currently have." District 6 School Board Member Darrel Ealum. "In this process of having to close some schools, what can we do to make that will make Dougherty High School and the schools east of the river stronger? And that's what I'm looking at."
The original plan of the charter school was to turn Albany High into the college and career academy, in hopes of boosting the graduation rate and better prepare students for jobs.
Board members didn't want to go into the details of the new proposal yet, but say it's now back on the table.
And the possible school closures prompted school board members to revisit their appeal to be removed from under a Federal Court Order, which says schools must be 50% black and 50% white.
Tommy Coleman, the school system attorney, gave members an update Wednesday. About 12 years ago the Dougherty County school system filed the appeal, saying it's statistically impossible to follow the order, which has been in place since the 1960's.
Any changes made in district lines and compositions of schools has to be reported.
"Obviously the closing of two schools is a large change and the re-purposing of the third one. So that will require students to be redistricted and put in another attendance zone from the one that they're in now," said Coleman.
For many years the court has accepted the reports from the Dougherty County School System with no action. Coleman says getting out from the order is a long term process that can be expensive.
Students who live at MCLB could have a choice in where they attend school in Dougherty County. School board members are looking at several options to entice students to enroll after noticing that many of them are attending school in a neighboring county.
"We're going to look at some options to get those students back. That's money, thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars that are district is losing because students are choosing to go to Worth County, rather than stay in Dougherty County," said Ealum.
"You got to have product that they want to come to. And we've got to do some things with our zoning, maybe allowing them some freedom of choice. All of these are decisions by the board, but there are a number of options that we could consider that would hopefully be helpful to them," said Interim Superintendent Dr. David Mosely.
School board members did not vote on other options today. But they are looking at giving students an option to choose what school they attend.
And school board member Darrel Ealum says strengthening Dougherty High school is a must.