Recently the Mayor of Tyrone shared his state of the city address. A key part of this was the re-opening of Tyrone Elementary in the fall of 2021. This reason given for the re-opening is growth in school population in the Everton subdivisions within Peachtree City, to quote baseball great Yogi Berra, “It deja vu all over again.”
In the recent past, our schools were confronted by this problem. Almost twenty years ago, my neighborhood, Centennial, began construction. The builder set aside ground for “Centennial Elementary.”
There was great concern that this subdivision was going to swamp the school system. The school board decided to not build Centennial Elementary. There were multiple buses going to Peachtree City Elementary at one point, but the surge has passed with no additional building and instead a growing list of names on our graduation banners.
In 2007, we were by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) told that growth was coming and our school board built Rivers Elementary. This school never opened and instead was sold for a loss; today it is the Pinewood Production Centre.
Even though the recession had hurt our economy, a reasonable person could doubt the ARC estimates of 35,000 students in our system. Today we average around 20,000 a year.
Given our previous experience reacting to growth, I believe that before we begin to consider spending $4-5 million on rehabilitating Tyrone Elementary and then spending $700,000 annually of classroom eligible budget on the fixed costs of administration, kitchen, custodial, and other fixed costs necessary to run a school before we pay for any teachers, we need to consider alternatives.
We have better options. FCBOE can direct portions of the Everton neighborhoods to the three close-by elementary schools (Peachtree City, Kedron, and Crabapple). We can choose to add on to any of these three schools.
We have recently added classrooms to Peachtree City Elementary raising capacity by 100 without adding the annual cost of support personnel. We can grow smartly without growing our budget.
The subject of funding the reopening Tyrone came up in the ESPLOST citizens committee meetings that determined the list of proposed projects for our recently passed ESPLOST. The committee rejected this project by a wide margin.
This is yet another example where the feedback of citizens seems to be less important than the agenda of the few.
To be clear, the FCBOE has the legal authority to do this without citizen approval even though several members say this is not approved … yet. However, it is curious the mayor would so boldly announce it with a projected start date.
I fear that we are making decisions while we are flush with cash that will not stand the test of more austere times that may soon be here due to the current Covid 19 crisis.
Neil Sullivan, CPA
Candidate, Post 3, Fayette County Board of Education
Peachtree City, Ga.