School Board Moves Forward With Plans To Close Schools

Bay County School Board members are moving forward with plans to close some schools this fall. Superintendent Bill Husfelt recommended a plan that affects several of the district's middle schools, and board members approved the recommendation for advertisement. But the decision doesn't seem to be easy for anyone.

School board members are going along with the middle school consolidation plan, at least for now. The plan calls for re-zoning Rosenwald Middle School students, then moving A.D. Harris High School students to Rosenwald's campus. Some Rosenwald supporters aren't happy with the decision.

"Unless you can explain to me how you can pass up a plan that saves 500,000 more than the plan you intend to choose, I don't know if I'll be able to support much of anything you decide to do in the future," Stuart Guilford, Rosenwald Middle School Teacher.

Although it will save less money, Husfelt says the middle school option is more viable, than changing some schools to k-8 facilities. He says that option would require construction changes, making for a more difficult transition.

Still, others questioned why Rosenwald was targeted, when the students have been successful.

"I do have a little bit of a problem of taking an A school after we've talked all this time about how important an A school is, in making that change," said Ryan Neves, Bay Co. School Brd. Member.

Husfelt says he purposely didn't choose schools based on grade, so people would not think the district was targeting those schools or schools with lower socioeconomic status.

"If I'd have said Everitt we would have all the Eagles here tonight. If I'd have recommended Jinks we'd have all the Jinks people here tonight. It's a no-win situation. No matter what we say we're going to have the same comments from the same group of people that care just as much about their school as you do," said Bill Husfelt, Bay Co. School Superintendent.

Several schools would be affected by either plan. Emerald bay academy will close, and those students will be integrated into other schools. Millville elementary will be re-purposed into Margaret K. Lewis School. West Bay Elementary and Haney High School will both close. And Shaw adult and Haney Career Center will be combined.

School board members approved the recommendation for advertisement. But the board could alter the plan, without re-advertising, when it comes up for a final vote on February 18.

"You have the authority to open and close schools and you can do so with just the recommendation from the Superintendent. You are going beyond probably anything that's been done in any district in Florida in getting public input in what you're doing," said Franklin Harrison, Bay Co. School Brd. Attorney.

Husfelt also requested the board stop adding grades at the New Breakfast Point Academy for now.

Officials have not decided yet what they will do with the closed school buildings.

Board members will hold workshops at each of the affected schools to get more ideas and input, between now and the vote.

School Closing Workshops:
Jan. 26 at Millville Elementary
Jan. 27 at Haney High School
Jan. 29 at Margaret K. Lewis
Feb. 5 at West Bay Elementary
Feb. 9 at A.D. Harris High
Feb. 12 at Rosenwald Elementary
All Workshops at 5:30 p.m.

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