At least one board of education member has suggested that the school system not hire a third party to conduct a school system facilities study if the goal is to close schools, since she doesn't believe any board of education members want to close schools.
During the county budget cycle last spring, the board of commissioners requested that the school system conduct a comprehensive facilities study to "assess the need for and proper utilization of the school facilities across the county over the next 10 years."
More recently that conversation focused on closing schools, with Commissioner Richard Rothschild coming out in favor of closing schools in an effort to cut overhead costs.
At last week's board of education meeting, where School Superintendent Steve Guthrie was expected to announce a series of cost-savings options including facility closures based on the comprehensive facilities study, Guthrie announced that he was uncomfortable completing the facilities study in house.
Guthrie told the board of education that he felt pressure to complete a study that he feels is rushed and that his staff does not have the expertise to conduct. Guthrie said that his staff has expertise in educating students, not in closing facilities.
Board of Education member Cynthia Foley suggested that the facilities study isn't necessary since no board of education members said they are in favor of closing schools.
"I do not think the numbers justify doing a study and closing a school," Foley said. "I don’t want us agreeing to a study wasting time and money because we’re trying to appease one commissioner who is bullying us."
Board of Education Vice President Barbara Shreeve said that she believes a third party should be hired to conduct a comprehensive facilities study but that her bigger concern right now is funding for the near future.
"I am in support of doing the study, I think we have to," Shreeve said. "That said, what really bothers me is that we’re talking a couple years down the road and yet we’re in a situation right now where there is not enough money to fund the school system right now, for next year."
"I don’t want to lose anything we have right now," Shreeve said. "I’m not hearing anyone say what’s going to get us through next year."
It is unclear at this point how much a third party study would cost and who would bear the cost of that study. Guthrie suggested the county would pay since the county asked for the study but Commissioner Howard said that "would be up for discussion."
Do you think a third party firm should be hired to conduct a comprehensive facilities study of the school system? If so, who should pay for it? Tell us in comments.