MILLEDGEVILLE – A districtwide survey has helped the Chadwick-Milledgeville School District narrow its options for renovating and expanding Milledgeville High School.
About 100 people attended a meeting Monday at which Superintendent Tim Schurman unveiled the results of a survey conducted in July to gather residents’ thoughts about the original $11 million plan and three other options.
Formed in the wake of declining enrollment, the first – and most popular – option calls for closing Chadwick Junior High School, adding a gym and office space, upgrading the heating and air conditioning systems, and consolidating all pre-K-12 classes at the high school, which now also houses pre-K through third-grade students.
It also requires getting land to the north and west of the school from the Milledgeville Park District. Schurman will report on what he called “very cordial” negotiations with the park board at the next board meeting.
The other three options put forth in the survey were:
•Ditching the gym and doing critical building upgrades only, which would cost about $8 million. Chadwick would be closed, but its gym would remain open for junior high sports, and again, there would be no tax hike. Thirty percent approved of this option.
• Performing heating, cooling and other renovations, but reducing the size of the proposed gym from 900 to 300 or 400 seats, which would cost about $9.5 million, and come with no tax hike. The current gym has 750 seats. Chadwick still would be closed. This garnered the support of 26 percent of the respondents.
• Closing Chadwick and cutting junior high sports programs, also at no tax rate increase, proved so unpopular that it has been dropped.
The district can get about $4 million in federal zero-interest bonds to apply toward renovations, no matter the option chosen.
Closing the junior high will result in yearly savings that would be put toward paying off the alternative revenue bonds needed to pay for the rest of the project, which is why there is no tax increase for two of the three options.
The most popular, and most expensive option, however – favored by 44 percent of the survey’s 614 respondents – would cost the owner of a $50,000 home about $15 more a year to help pay them back.
The board could vote on a final option as soon as its Aug. 21 meeting. It has until Dec. 31 to get the zero-interest bonds, and must allow for a 30-day period for people to weigh in.
Those attending Monday spoke for and against closing Chadwick.
Angela Sheddan, who lives near Chadwick, asked how the proposals would enhance academics.
Even little things like air exchange and more sunlight can help children learn better, Board President Sandra Baylor-Schmidt said.
Teachers might be able to teach more classes, and won’t lose time traveling between Chadwick and Milledgeville, Schurman added.
Board member Brad Smith acknowledged the emotional impact of closing the junior high, but “we would not be good stewards of your taxpayer money if we keep Chadwick open,” he said.
“We want new, young families. They look at schools, look at the learning environment of that school. Is it a thriving community, with modern, up-to-date buildings? Or one that needs improvement?” Schurman asked.
The Chadwick-Millledgeville School Board next meets at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 in the library at Milledgeville High School, 100 E. Eighth St.