The fate of the West Broad School is a complicated challenge, one with a complex future, Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means told the board during a June 7 work session. There are many layered issues surrounding it, with internal and external interests, and he plans to spend the summer addressing these issues and to report back to the board in the fall with a recommendation. His goal with the building is to “advance the district’s strategic plan.”
Some of the competing interests include a limited capacity for pre-K students and an imbalance in school population. Whitehead Road is much larger than Cleveland Road, for example. What should happen with old Gaines Elementary? How should the career academy expand with district offices competing for space? West Broad School can’t be considered in isolation—everything ties together, he said. Means said all CCSD properties will be used for student programming, and he will be thinking long-term.
What if the district removed pre-K classes from elementary schools? Doing so would open up space in school buildings and possibly end the need for portable classrooms, which will be coming to burgeoning Chase Street this school year. The district needs to maintain Old Gaines and not ignore it as it did the school on Barber Street, which has since been sold, Means said.
Board member John Knox said the evaluation process is “going to take a while,” and Means agreed. Means wants to consider district buildings, attendance zones and portable classrooms, all in terms of “where do we have needs from an instructional standpoint.” Board members said that with the county’s population growing—especially in the Chase Street attendance zone—it’s unlikely to ever eliminate portable classrooms from school campuses.
A previous school administration had proposed moving the district offices to West Broad and paving over the gardens. The district administration needs 60,000 square feet for its many offices, as well as 250 parking spaces and a meeting room for 100 adults, Means said. West Broad offers 32,800 square feet, and the estimated renovation cost is $6.5 million. Planning for stormwater and building a two-story parking deck would take millions more. Knox asked whether such a project could be paid with the general fund or fund balances, and Means said no. Any discussion would be “premature,” he said.
There was no mention of the Athens Land Trust’s proposal for West Broad Street or the other two proposals.
In other action, Means presented an update of the system’s strategic plan, which focuses on “actionable priorities” and stresses “equity and excellence.” The plan projects a 12 percent increase in student literacy and numeracy by 2020, he said. In addition to academic growth, the plan emphasizes students’ social and emotional growth, organizational effectiveness, fiscal health, professional capacity and educational equity. The last means increasing the number of underrepresented students in gifted programs and advanced-placement classes by 6 percent annually, Means said.
Out-of-school suspensions will decrease by 6 percent for both students of color and special education students, according to the strategic plan. Means said the plan minimizes the use of pull-out programs and serves special education students and those struggling academically.
“We’re not going to withhold discipline if the child deserves it,” Means added.
In CCSD, 200 teachers left this year, either by resigning or retiring. Means wants to retain “mission-driven and diverse faculty” and reduce the number of teachers leaving the district by 5 percent.
The board named Dan Maguire the principal for Whit Davis Elementary. He most recently served as a teacher and administrator in DeKalb County.