It is apparent the Fayette County Board of Education has made a decision to walk away from their SPLOST commitment about Booth Middle School.
It is also apparent from the data that the Board has decided to create a stand-alone career center (Center of Innovation) at the current Booth by building a new Booth.
Deciding to build a career center means the Board will dismantle the comprehensive high school model that has been in place in Fayette County since 1976.
The current five high schools each have a career academy on their campuses.The final courses in the Culinary Arts and Health Sciences sequences were pulled out and placed at the career center/Center of Innovation.
The new model being proposed dates back to the 1940s and was called a vocational high school. What is innovative about that? The creation of a stand alone career center will create a sixth high school with all its inherent costs.
We are serving career/tech students in our current career academies which are located in each of our high schools. The Board has had a long-standing policy that allowed students to transfer to any of the other high schools that had a program that they wanted, but was not taught in their home high school.
Students have academic classes, fine arts classes, and CTAE classes all in the same building; this is the comprehensive high school model. Research shows this is the best model for a broad-based high school education.
It takes time out of the school day to transport students all over the county. About 15 years ago, the state Department of Education refused to give the school system grant money to study the feasibility of a separate career academy. That refusal came because we already had the best model, comprehensive high schools.
It is evident that public post-secondary schools are driving the way in which we teach the senior level career/tech courses.
It is apparent the Board should:
1. Do a follow-up study to determine the effectiveness of the current career/tech programs in the five high schools.
2. Ask current students what interests they have and what suggestions they have for improving the existing programs.
3. Place any new programs that emerge from the analysis in the appropriate existing high school(s).
4. Designate high schools as magnets, open to any student in the county who wishes to attend a program not available in his/her home school. This will allow those courses to be an integral part of a high school program.
5. Teach joint enrollment classes in the individual high schools. However, the institutions that teach the joint enrollment classes want all of the students in one location.
6. Allow stand-alone courses to be taught at the LEC. For example, there is already a culinary kitchen, a cafeteria and a fast-food serving area at the LEC. Yes, the kitchen needs to be renovated, but I bet it would not cost $50 million to be upgraded.
Here are some other pertinent concerns. If there are in fact three options for the Booth project (remodel, transformation, build new), why were the first two options not costed out as the new middle school was?
How on earth can someone make a choice among three options without the validated costs for each? The buying of property and the bidding out of the new construction suggests that the Board really considered only one option.
In the answer to a question about the Board finding a more appropriate location, the response was “… the State Facilities Division has evaluated the school site and determined it is a good site for constructing a school.” What exactly does that mean?
From what I have learned, it means there are no hazardous wastes or railroad tracks nearby. The agency does not consider access roads to or from the site. Why would the Board even consider a site before access roads are available?
What is the rush? Nothing has changed at Booth. There have been no deficiencies at the school noted by the state or the accreditation committee. Can there not be a comprehensive look at the options — all three of them?
People who are so determined to have a new school built on Stagecoach Road should visit the site and see for themselves the lack of access and the traffic congestion at Robinson, Walt Banks, Stagecoach Roads and Ga. Highway 54.
The people in Glenloch are concerned about traffic from a proposed new development in their area. Are they aware of a proposed new middle school which will also contribute to their traffic woes?
Will the Board make a good decision? Let’s hope they do for the sake of all students in the county.
[Key served as a member of the Fayette County Board of Education for 20 years, beginning in 1993, including as board chair, and ending in 2016.]