[EDITOR’S NOTE: the writer of this letter is Mrs. Marion Key, who has served multiple terms on the Fayette County Board of Education, including as chair.]
Had an opportunity one recent morning to drive down a one-lane, tree-lined, canopied street in Peachtree City. If you have not had this experience, you need to have it soon because the opportunity will not be there long.
Soon there will be no more peace and serenity because the Fayette County Board of Education is planning to build a middle school and possibly an elementary school at the end of this street. The system will need neither school for many years. A recent outsourced enrollment study shows no need for new schools for ten years. This is especially true for middle and high schools.
Why is a new middle school being built? I do not know because we certainly do not need another one. The system has a middle school building that is not being used for that purpose now, and there are at least 800 spaces for students in the other four middle schools. Was a lesson not learned ten years ago? Remember Inman, Rivers, Cleveland and Bennett’s Mill?
A builder with plans and building permits is no guarantee as to how many, if any, students there will be. Remember the system ended up selling Rivers Elementary because there were no students to fill it? Brooks, Tyrone, Fayette Intermediate, and Fayette Middle were also closed due to over-building.
Why a 1,500-student middle school? Another good question. In the past, the board had a policy about the sizes of schools in the county: 600-800 students for elementary, 900-1,200 for middle, and 1,500-1,800 for high schools. These are considered ideal sizes for academic, financial, and safety reasons.
The other middle schools have less than a thousand students each. Why would the board make Booth so much larger than the others? Also, if there are 1,500 students at Booth, where will the students go to high school? There won’t be room at McIntosh. A 1,200 student middle school adequately feeds a 1,600 student high school (approximately 400/grade in each school). A slight change in attendance lines would eliminate any need to expand Booth.
Why build a NEW Booth Middle School? Huddleston is about the same age and Peachtree City Elementary is ten years older than Booth. Both of these schools, along with Fayette Middle, McIntosh, Tyrone, and most of the older schools, including Booth, were renovated or expanded while they were in session. Why is Booth now an exception?
Supposedly, the cost to rebuild Booth will be in the $40 million range. The county will receive no “growth funds” from the state. All of the money to pay for this project will come from local taxpayers. Only $10 million has been allocated for this project so far.
What other projects will not be funded in order to build a new Booth? Computers? Buses? Science labs? Renovations at other schools?
The renovation of Booth, that includes everything wanted, will cost approximately $28 million. The state will provide $7 million to $8 million for the renovation. What makes it necessary to spend an extra $22 million+ of local taxpayer money on a new building when Booth meets all state standards?
Let’s stick with the original proposal and expand or rebuild the core areas. Is the current board and administration indifferent to the fact that increasing numbers of taxpayers in Fayette County are living on fixed incomes?
There are less than 20 students who live within a half mile of the new school location. Less than 100 live within a mile. This new school will be at the edge of its attendance zone. What will be the extra fuel cost for the buses? Building a new school will leave another empty school; this one in the middle of Peachtree City. What will be the cost of maintaining this empty building?
Has a traffic study been done on the Highway 54, Walt Banks Road, Carriage Lane intersection? Carriage Lane is a subdivision type road. The intersection of Hwy. 54 and Walt Banks is already congested with traffic, including that from MHS.
Adding “who knows how many” cars and 15-20 buses to the mix is asking for trouble. The residents on Carriage Lane and Stagecoach Lane will experience gridlock trying to leave their homes. This loss of peace and quiet will begin with the start of construction.
Just a reminder. Fayette is a county school system. Peachtree City does not have its own system. A student living in PTC is not guaranteed a place at Booth or any other school located in PTC. Some developers seem to think if they build houses/apartments in PTC, the students living in those residences will automatically be allowed to attend a school in PTC. This seems to be a selling point.
Many students currently living in Peachtree City are in the attendance zones for Flat Rock or Rising Starr. Since the new Booth sits at the edge of its attendance zone, residences built on adjacent property will not be in the Booth attendance area.
If anyone has concerns about rebuilding Booth, how tax dollars are being spent or any other school issues, please contact board members.
[Mrs. Key retired from many years of teaching in the Fayette School System before being elected to the Board of Education in 1993, where she served 20 years.]