Coweta County residents are going to have the opportunity to help determine whether local schools handle projected growth by building new schools or by adding on to existing structures.
A post-recession uptick in enrollment at the Coweta County School System – indicative of increased economic activity in the county – has prompted school officials to seek guidance from Education Planners, LLC for future facility planning. Superintendent Steve Barker said hiring the consulting firm and engaging the community in conversations about how to move forward will be crucial in the facility planning process.
“We will not guess at how we will continue,” Barker said. “We want to do some thorough research and share it with the community. We want to hear from the community.”
Barker said Coweta County schools are beginning to see some mid-year effect on enrollment and a swelling middle school/early high school student population. To maintain ideal classroom capacity, the school system will need to consider building new schools or expanding existing facilities. In March, Cowetans voted to extend the system’s sales tax for capital projects. Those funds could build a new school, but the cost to operate schools comes out of the school system’s general fund budget.
Some middle schools, including Lee and Madras, have room for expansion without requiring a separate operational budget. State funds based on projected enrollment would be available for new construction of either type, and Barker said he’s hoping for robust conversations with members of the public to help reach the best decisions for everyone involved.
“(Education Planners) has got really good informational graphics, and they can crunch the numbers for us,” Barker said. “We’re looking at operational dollars, SPLOST and state dollars. We definitely have not overbuilt as a school system. I’m not saying we can’t run a new school if we build it, but we also want to know if people understand and are comfortable with where they are in their schools. This is what I want to hear from the community.”
Barker said dates will be set in the next few weeks for public meetings at each of the county’s six middle schools, and he hopes they will draw large crowds.
“Every taxpayer needs to hear this information and give their input,” he said.