Richmond County could shut down five schools

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News 12 at 11, March 13, 2008

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga.---Shutting down five public schools could save Richmond County a lot of money. And that's just one piece of advice from a consulting company telling the Richmond County school system how to improve.

It was a full house at the Richmond County Board of Education meeting Thursday. Lots of teachers and parents wanted to hear some advice for the school board.

"I think it's a really good idea that they brought somebody in and I think it's worth the money," said parent Patricia Asmundson.

She says she's glad the board spent $167,000 for MGT of America to look at how the district can improve.

There's one idea she doesn't like, though: shutting down five schools.

"But I think all of you on the board know that that's probably what needs to be done," said Kathy Brooks, a spokesperson for MGT.

She says the company found that the district is nearly 6,000 students under capacity, meaning that many seats are left empty.

"That's huge," she says.

With declining enrollment, the company recommends the board should shut down one high school, one middle school, and three elementary schools.

"I don't know how they're going to do that. That's going to be a challenge," said Asmundson.

Challenge or not, MGT says the money saved would be worth it. They say the school system would save $11.7 million, over the next five years.

"We think that 11.7 million cost savings, if you close those schools, will go a long way to making sure every one of Richmond County students can have a better education," said Brooks.

But Asmundson says with many failing schools in the district, she's not sure if they could handle more students.

"When you close a school and you send those students to another school, you place a burden on the existing school," she said.

She hopes the board will think long and hard about it before they make up their minds.

"We want the children to succeed. We don't want to set them up for failure," she said.

The school board still has to decide on this issue, as well as all others in the 328-page audit.

Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden says some ideas could be in place by next school year; others could take years. Still others may not be implemented at all, if the board so chooses.

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