Students make a plea to keep their elementary school open

News 12 at 11 / Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It was standing room only at the second rightsizing meeting of four.

In fact, they had to bring in more chairs to the Craig-Houghton gym to accommodate everyone. But, while the seats were full, this time the ages were younger and the tempers were gone.

"I am very upset you say you want to close Collins," expressed one 8th grader.

She was one of the many students who would make their voices heard.

"All I want to say is ever since I've been going to Collins, I've learned so much. All I am asking you is please don't shut down our school," Geniese Butler said.

It was a genuine plea from the Collins 2nd grader.

"I don't think it's a good idea. If it closes, I'm gonna really miss it," Butler told News 12.

"It takes a lot to get in front of a group of people and speak, so for those children at that young of an age to get up there, that's all love, that's passion," parent Antonio Marion said.

While the 8-year-old took to the mic tonight, her other classmates have protested from the classroom.

"I would like to keep Collins running from generation to generation," one student said.

"I want to keep Collins K-8 school open because we can learn more and teachers can keep their jobs," another 2nd grader said.

Experts say Collins' enrollment is declining and will be below 150 students after Cherry Tree Crossing closes, one of the biggest reasons consultants recommend the school should close. But, will all this heartfelt protest be enough to keep the school open?

"At this particular stage, it would be evaluated very, very seriously given what we heard tonight," Superintendent Frank Roberson said.

"These people have a genuine sense of hope within Collins. It's not just a school. It's a staple in a predominantly black community," Marion said.

"If you take Collins away, then I feel like you're shutting down the whole community," parent Claudia Brown said.

So, Tuesday the community joined together, fighting to keep a part of their hearts and did it in a manner that left the Superintendent proud.

"They were able to balance the emotions with rational thinking, and that was awesome," Dr. Roberson said.

Officials did remind the group, the recommendation is to close the school, but they would not be tearing it down. With redevelopment coming to the Cherry Tree Crossing area, they said they'll keep the building in case they need it in the future.

There are two more meetings:

Monday, Feb. 10, 6-7:30 p.m.
Butler High School
-focus on Sego/Butler Consolidation

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 6:30-8 p.m.
Garrett Elementary School
-focus on National Hills/Garrett Consolidation

Roberson's final recommendations will come March 11.

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