Officials: New school in Georgiana would offer tech, college prep classes

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 20, 2007

While the Butler County Board of Education is still searching for ways to fund a comprehensive $25 million facility improvement plan, all indications from the board is that an initial priority for future construction would be building a new school for the city of Georgiana.

At a facility meeting on Monday Superintendent Mike Looney said both Robert L. Austin Elementary and Georgiana High School are reaching critical points as far as structural soundness goes.

Looney informed those attending Monday's summit that the cost of repair for either R.L. Austin or GHS exceeds the value of each school and that a population decline in Georgiana makes keeping both schools open a financial liability.

Looney said both R.L. Austin and Georgiana High School have experienced a nine percent decline in school attendance over the last two years.

&#8220The fact is we can no longer afford to have a school open that is losing students,” said Looney.

Estimated cost for a new facility in Georgiana is $14.6 million. The only other option would be to close both schools and re-zone students to McKenzie and Greenville, not the most popular among board members and Looney himself.

&#8220One, it would mean having students on board school buses for over an hour and a half,” said Looney. &#8220And two, McKenzie is certainly not able to handle an influx of elementary and high school students.”

Eliminating one school in Georgiana would save approximately $375,000, a rough estimate, said Looney.

And Looney said the desire would be to construct a school in Georgiana that is not only K-12, but is also open enrollment, offering career technical options unavailable at the other schools in Butler County.

&#8220There has to be something special about this school,” said Looney. &#8220Something that is attractive enough for students to want to come if they're interested in welding, or nursing, for example.”

Looney told officials and school administrators at Monday's summit that both Georgiana schools received the worst condition ratings from the community during a survey conducted by the Board earlier last year. 34 percent of those who completed the survey cited R.L. Austin as being in poor condition with 61 percent saying the facility needed work. 27 percent of those surveyed found Georgiana High to be in poor condition and 63 percent said the school needed work to the existing buildings.