Could Richmond County do with fewer schools? Parents weigh in
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - On Monday, parents had the first of three opportunities to share their thoughts on a proposal to repurpose or close some local schools.
It’s the latest “rightsizing” plan for the Richmond County School System, which just underwent a similar process a couple of years ago.
Parents will be allowed to ask questions, view a presentation of the proposal, and share their concerns.
For the 2023-24 school year, the Richmond County School System is proposing to merge Terrace Manor Elementary School into Wheeless Road Elementary School.
The recommendation results from the declining student population and the condition of the facility.
Right now, there are 259 students enrolled at Terrace Manor and the school is designed to hold a total of 550 students.
Students impacted by the merger will still attend Glenn Hills Middle School and Murphey Middle School. If the merger is approved, the Terrace Manor Elementary School building will be repurposed. The school system is also proposing to merge Willis Foreman Elementary School into surrounding Deer Chase and Hephzibah Elementary School.
The recommendation for Willis Foreman is due to a declining student population. Members of the community are invited to participate in public hearings, view maps, listen to a presentation on the proposal, and ask questions of the staff.
In addition to Monday’s hearing, more meetings are planned:
- Thursday, 6 p.m. at Wheeless Road Elementary School
- Wednesday, 6 p.m. at Willis Foreman Elementary School
- Tuesday, 6 p.m. at 864 Broad St.
Some parents, students, teachers, and faculty are not happy about how the county wants to decide their future. Some didn’t even know it was coming.
“When I read the article, my baby’s school was in there. I was shocked. When I got to the school that morning, I told the teachers, and they didn’t even know. It was a lot of teachers that didn’t know. They were shocked,” said one Richmond County parent.
“Very frustrating. We know the teachers and there’s a small school, we got 320 students. We know all of them by name. So it’s kind of hard, and you got teachers that have been there for 20 and 25 years,” she said.
The decision to rightsize would save Richmond County $1.7 million, but what it’s going to cost her daughter is more.
“It’s a lot to uproot your children again when they were already uprooted a couple of years ago,” the mom said. “She will be on the bus line, which I wouldn’t let her ride the bus anyway. And then the schools are already overcrowded where they say they’re going, so it’s gonna be even worse.”
There’s only one thing that matters to her.
“If it’s just a money situation, then you’re not worried about the children and their well-being,” she said.
Two of the biggest concerns are overcrowded classrooms and transportation.
We spoke with another mom who says moving her children to another school would add more stress to her family.
Terikalis Atkins has a daughter at Willis Foreman Elementary. She’s already switched jobs to bring her children to school. She’s worried about how she’ll make this work if Willis Foreman shuts down.
“I did that at this point because I want to build a relationship with them, and it is really difficult with the school opening so early. I just don’t understand what’s going to take place,” she said.
It’s not just the commute she’s worried about. The school board says they’d be saving in their plan, but Atkins is concerned it’s all about the money.
She says after the pandemic heavily impacted schools, her daughter finally has her sense of normalcy back, and if they approve the plan, that will go away.
“I think it would be detrimental to her mental health,” said Atkins.
Other questions raised are where will the teachers go and how this will impact special education students. The school board says teachers will be offered positions at other schools in the system, but they would not comment any further on what that might look like.
As far as Atkins is concerned, she knows the school board has to make a tough decision, she just hopes it’s the right one.
“Children are our future,” she said. “If you’ve got children in an environment where they’re productive and growing, let them stay there.”
The school district says they won’t comment any further until after the board makes a decision on March 21.
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