Vote Passes, Bay Co. Schools to Close

Bay County school board members passed a proposal to close or re-purpose about half a dozen schools. Board members say they had to make the tough decisions to make sure the district can provide students with the best education possible.

Bay County school board members unanimously approved Superintendent Bill Husfelt's plan to re-purpose and close several schools, but it wasn't easy for them.

"My heart is broken for the communities that lose schools. We have no winners tonight. We have no winners tonight," said Jerry Register, Bay Co. School board member.

The plan will repurpose Millville Elementary to serve Margaret K. Lewis, repurpose Rosenwald Middle School for A.D. Harris, temporarily close West Bay Elementary and rezone those students, close Haney High School, cancel the Emerald Bay Academy contract, move Shaw Adult Center Program to Haney Career and Adult Center and delay the addition of middle school grades at Breakfast Point Academy.

The changes are expected to save about 5 1/2 million dollars. Before voting, board members heard some 11th hour pleas from the public.

"Everybody loves their schools, but this is an achieving school. We're at the bottom rung and we're climbing up," said Brian Gildea, Rosenwald school advisory committee chairman.

In the end, board members said it came down to what's best for the students.

"I know it looks like a slap in the face for this board to be sitting up here and talking about doing away with a school that has done so well, but to be honest when we really sit down and look at it we are bay district schools. We are the Bay County School system that is trying to make the decisions, not just for one segment of the education population but for every child, a fair and equitable solution for every child," said Ryan Neves, Bay County School board member.

Without the changes, board member Donna Allen says other areas will seriously suffer.

"The more places we consolidate, the more communities we grow together, the less people and less programs we have to cut," said Donna Allen, Bay County School board member.

The process doesn't end here. The board is anticipating a 16 million dollar cut from the state next school year, so they'll still have plenty of tough choices to make.

Superintendent Husfelt and his staff will now begin re-zoning the entire school district and devising a new school choice plan. He's already announced a plan to cut more than 100 administrative positions, saving another 4.8 million dollars.

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