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Students, faculty must change schools

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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Students and teachers from three Dougherty County schools will soon find out what different schools they'll go to next school year. School board members voted to close two schools and repurpose a third Wednesday.

After months of debating and hearing public input, school board members finally voted today. But it wasn't a unanimous decision. Some members are concerned about how the closures will impact other schools. 

 In a five to two vote, Dougherty County school board members voted to close Dougherty Middle, Sylvester Road Elementary and repurpose Magnolia Elementary due to a declining student population.

Velvet Riggins and Darrel Ealum were opposed. "I'm extremely disappointed that we wouldn't at least split the vote out," said Ealum.

Ealum's proposal was to vote on each school separately, hoping to spare Sylvester Road Elementary. "It makes common sense to me to at a minimum, delay closing Sylvester Elementary until you build a new wing at Turner and don't pack a whole additional schools worth of students into another school and balloon it to over capacity."

But after months of debating, board members were ready to move forward. "we'll never get it done if we put it off any longer," said School Board Member Milton Griffin.

The plan will save $2 million a year and $11 million in SPLOST money for renovations needed at the schools on the closure list. But folks in East Albany say it will hurt their community.

"It's a difficult decision," said School board chairman Carol Tharin. "Nobody wants their schools closed. But we have to make the best possible decision for the overall system, not just one or two neighborhoods. We're not excited about it but we felt like we've done the best possible job that we could do."

Ingrid Blackmon walks her two children to school at Sylvester Road Elementary. "I'm more upset than surprised. Because for one, Sylvester Road is history. It's been here ever since I was a child. So, something like closing a school, I think there should have been a different approach about it."

Blackmon, along with many other parents, students and teachers will now have to prepare to attend a new school next year. School board chairman Carol Tharin told me they plan to reach out to parents in many ways to inform them.

School officials plan to use Magnolia Elementary for gifted, Pre-k, alternative education, and Oak Tree Center programs.

 

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