Residents defend schools pending closure as officials near a decision


MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Low numbers inside the classrooms at three schools in Bibb County have prompted a conversation of closing them down.

“The recommendation is not to close schools at this time but that could change based on the impact of charter schools that are going to be opening, and how they are going to impact school populations,” said School Board President Daryl Morton.

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Community members showed up in high numbers on Tuesday night to defend the schools being considered at the district’s five year facilities plan informational.

“This board is not really focusing on an institution beyond those numbers. They gotta really look at the value to the people,” said resident George Muhammad.

Riley, Brookdale and L.H. Williams are all on the list. Muhammad says institutions like L.H. Williams serve as more than just a school building to the surrounding community.

“It’s a gym for the parks and recreation department. A lot of leagues–basketball leagues play there, football teams play there, you have a dance program, you have a Taekwondo program,” he went on.

“I know that good and substantive work is being done at the three schools that are being targeted and the community just needs to get behind it,” said parent Monya Rutland.

With dwindling enrollment numbers, the district is anticipating losing around 1500 students to budding charter schools over the next few years.

“The first consideration is what do we do to make sure that all children who come to our schools get the best educational results that they can…and how do we do that…and I wanna be clear that there’s been no decision made,” Morton said.

Residents like Rutland fear that potentially closing the schools will have a negative effect on its students.

“My concern is about the children. I have three children two who are in Bibb Schools,” she said.

While others like Muhammad are concerned for how it’ll impact the surrounding community.

“The other schools have a very important role in their neighborhoods and you have to look at what will happen to the area around Brookdale as well as the area around Riley. What’s gonna happen to those neighborhoods?” he said.

But Morton says their ears are open to the public.

“What makes it so important is you hear sort of the human side of it. Here’s why this school is important to us, here’s why it’s important to the community and here’s what I’m doing to support the school and that’s something you don’t see on a spreadsheet,” he added.

Morton says they’re taking all that they heard and saw from residents Tuesday night into consideration before they make a final decision.

Enrollment numbers, utilization of classrooms, and cost per student all play a role in the decision of whether or not to close schools down. The lower number of students the higher the cost per student at a school may be.