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Plans for school closings cause concerns

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By Erin Hill

Concerned citizens came out to the school board meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, to voice their opinions on proposed of school consolidations.
Barbara Brown said Gretna Elementary, one of the schools that’s proposed to be closed, is the rock of her community.  She said she was also worried about the overcrowding of classrooms and safety issues if the schools are combined.  Brown said there were many fights when Quincy and Havana students were combined to form East Gadsden High School.
In the consolidation proposal on the school’s website, for the 2017-2018 school year, Gretna Elementary’s fourth- and fifth-graders would go to West Gadsden in Greensboro, which will become a middle school, and pre-kindergarten through third grade would go to Greensboro Elementary.
School Board Member Isaac Simmons Jr., who represents Chattahoochee and Greensboro, said board members haven’t made a decision yet, so they’re not sure if the consolidation will happen.
Frances Brown, a teacher at West Gadsden, asked the board if they’re going to listen to the citizens before making a
decision. “Absolutely,” Superintendent Roger Milton responded.
 “I have 250 high-school students, and I don’t want them over there,” Brown said.
Pamela Medley, who works with Chattahoochee Main Street said when trying to grow a community, it’s great to have good schools, especially when trying to bring people to an area.
“Chattahoochee Elementary is a great school,” Medley said.
Although Milton has voiced his support for school consolidation several times, Simmons explained that although the superintendent will make a recommendation to the board, it’s ultimately up to the board when they vote on it.  He went on to say, the school board members will have meetings in each district to discuss future plans before making a decision.
School Board Member Charlie Frost, who represents Gretna and Quincy, said both Gretna Elementary and St. Johns Elementary are in his district.  Milton recommended that both be closed in his proposal.
“The only people I know who agree don’t live in the district, and it doesn’t affect them,” Frost said.
Frost said he doesn’t want to put the burden on the
parents.
“We combined schools before, and none of those great things happened,” Frost said.
Frost said he is concerned about children who will have to get up earlier in the morning and travel 30 miles, especially when it’s raining.
School Board Member Tyrone Smith said plenty of parents are already going 30 and 40 miles one way to take their children to school.
Smith said, “The reason we’re in the predicament we’re in is because our parents are taking their students to Leon.”
Smith said he was glad to see parents at the meeting, and he hoped to see them at PTA and School Advisory Council
meetings.