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BoE decides to continue on-post school
Army says troop strength will increase
Judy Scherer
Superintendent Judy Schere - photo by Courier file photo
Despite news that the 5th BCT is no longer coming to Fort Stewart, the Liberty County Board of Education decided Tuesday to proceed with a new middle school on Fort Stewart.
“We’re building this school for all of our children,” Chairwoman Lily Baker said. “This is being built for military children and for civilian children. It’s a school for all our children.”
Superintendent Judy Scherer said she recommended continuing the project for a number of reasons. The board voted unanimously.
“We needed to take a step back and look at the construction… We’ve looked at the numbers and the investments we’ve already made,” she said. “We have a sufficient number of students to justify building the school however the funding efficiency is not the best.”
Scherer said prior to hearing the brigade and their families would not be coming the board had invested about $316,000 worth of planning.
Dave Smith, Fort Stewart liaison encouraged the board’s decision to proceed, promising the number of troops on the post would undoubtedly increase.
“There’s going to be an inevitable increase in Liberty County, he said. “Fort Stewart is going to be growing… Close to 4,000 soldiers are coming in the next three years.”
Most board members agreed the school is necessary.
“We’re already into this and our middle schools are overcrowded already,” board member Becky Carter said.
Member Verdell Jones, however, said she was reluctant to vote to proceed because of budget concerns.
If the number of students doesn’t increase the new school will cost more local money to operate than current schools because state funding is based on enrollment. And administrators provided estimates that showed the district may have to cover nearly all of the $5 million it takes to run a middle school, if enrollment doesn’t increase. With state funding, the current schools cost the board about $3 million in local money.
Noting that enrollment has not increased much in recent years, Jones said, “I’m greatly concerned about the deficit. It’s just too big.”
Baker and Scherer assured Jones, saying there are funding options available.
Another issue surrounding the school from the start has been whether construction can be finished by a fall 2010 deadline. While the idea of holding the opening date for a year was discussed, Scherer recommended the current construction timeline.
“There’s really no benefit to slowing the process,” Scherer said. “Construction costs are down right now, so it’s a good opportunity to go ahead with the building. Costs could actually go up with inflation.”
Scherer said the project is needed soon.
“Two years from now, we’re going to desperately need those classrooms,” she said.
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