I am writing this letter to get answers to questions about the pending renovations/remodeling/construction at Booth Middle School. It would be helpful to all concerned if there could be some dialogue among all interested parties, the school system, parents, and taxpayers.
There are three alternatives currently under discussion by the Fayette County Board of Education: 1. Modify and upgrade the current building. 2. Tear down the oldest part of the current building and rebuild on the current land. 3. Build a new building elsewhere.
These three scenarios raise many questions. What are the deficiencies in the current building that the board is trying to rectify? Which of the alternatives would best meet the needs of the students and be most cost effective for the taxpayers?
The information I have heard is that the current building (Booth is about 40 years old) needs to be updated; a new gymnasium that is equivalent to the other middle school gyms is to be built; the cafeteria is to be enlarged (possibly making the old gym into a lunchroom), and the music facilities need to be enlarged (by either making the old lunch room into music rooms or making the old gym into music rooms). There may be other issues of which I am not aware.
Let’s look at each alternative.
Alternative 1: Renovate/modify the current building. This includes building a new gym and enlarging/enhancing the music facilities and cafeteria. The projected cost is $12 million.
The current building is still in useable condition, but needs updating.
Huddleston Elementary is about the same age as Booth. Look at the difference that renovations made there. It looks like a new school.
We have an excellent architect, Richard Powell, who magically changed McIntosh’s gym into an auditorium and designed the bridge on the front of MHS. He can work the same magic with modifications at BMS.
This option can fulfill all goals.
Option 2: Tear down oldest part of the building and rebuild on the same property. The projected cost is $24 million.
The current building is still useable, but needs updating. Goals can be met without a complete new building. Booth is the same age as Huddleston.
What can be accomplished with this alternative that cannot be accomplished with alternative 1? Is this option worth $12 million more? Is it necessary to rebuild to get the desired results?
Option 3: Build new building elsewhere. Projected cost is $28 million plus the cost of land.
What would we do with the old building? We have six middle school buildings now, and only five are used as middle schools.
Booth is the only middle school close to capacity. Why do we need seven middle schools? Booth is too large to be an elementary school.
We don’t need a larger building. McIntosh has a capacity of approximately 400 students per grade; therefore its feeder school Booth needs about 400 per grade.
What would a change in location do to attendance lines? Feeder patterns?
Moving Booth elsewhere will make the school further from McIntosh. (A common complaint I hear from Bennett’s Mill and Fayette County parents is that the two schools are too far apart.)
Booth sits in the heart of Peachtree City. It is the only middle school that is truly a neighborhood middle school.
There are two questions that concern all three options. How will each alternative affect academics, physical education classes, the fine arts, exploratories, extra-curricular activities, etc., during and after construction? What are the time lines for construction?
If enrollment increases, there’s a possibility that closed elementary schools may need to be reopened. If extra money is spent on Booth, where will money come from to reopen these schools?
When will this decision be made? Will parents, teachers, community members, and other interested parties have input into the decision?
Thanks for answering these questions and being transparent about how our taxpayer money is being spent.
[Mrs. Key, a former teacher in the local system, served multiple terms on the Fayette County Board of Education and as its chair.]