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BOE discusses SEB stadium, transportation zones
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The Bulloch County Board of Education hosted a special session Tuesday on the hardwood of Southeast Bulloch High School's old gymnasium.

The board gathered at 6:30 p.m. to discuss a short list of items, including a change in elementary school transportation zones and the future of Southeast Bulloch's athletic facilities.

The special session held at the Brooklet venue allowed board members a chance to tour Southeast Bulloch's current facilities and receive an outline of plans for future construction and renovation.

Members agreed Tuesday to continue as planned by bidding-out a project that will result in a new multipurpose stadium, field-house and concessions building for SEB sports programs.

"We are going to build a combined stadium/track facility with 2,500 seats," said Charles Wilson, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance for Bulloch County schools. "The project also includes a separate, lighted practice field and turning the old gymnasium into an athletic fieldhouse."

The new structure to be used for concessions will also serve as a ticket booth and house stadium bathrooms, he said. Renovations to the old gymnasium, along with a proposed addition to the backside of the building, will remove a stage at the end of the gym and gut existing area to make way for new locker rooms.

"The fieldhouse will be used for football, track, soccer and other sports; and can be divided up for girls and boys," said Wilson.

The existing hardwood, he said, "will be maintained as a secondary gym for practice by school programs - whether basketball, volleyball or wrestling."

According to Wilson, the plan to upgrade Southeast Bulloch's athletic facilities is estimated to cost between $3 and $5 million.

Construction of the new stadium, field and concessions building is expected to begin immediately after the Yellow Jackets' 2011 football season. If a bid is accepted in a particular time frame, renovations to the old gymnasium could begin earlier, he said.

The new facilities will be constructed slightly askew from where current fields sit. The current field-house will be torn down to make way for the new practice field.

Also in their meeting, board members tabled the topic of elementary transportation zone changes for the board's next assembly.

Tuesday, Wilson again presented the department's most recent zoning plan - which was consistent with the presentation made in the board's last meeting and can be found online on the Bulloch County Schools' website - and addressed issues that board members, teachers and school council members have presented him.

The proposed zoning changes are an attempt to more evenly distribute students in six of the county's elementary schools - Sallie Zetterower, Mattie Lively, Julia P. Bryant, Langston Chapel, Mill Creek and Brooklet.

The need to modify zones has arisen, according to Wilson, because some schools are operating at a higher-than-ideal capacity, while Sallie Zetterower and Mattie Lively Elementary - once the new Mattie Lively is constructed - are under utilized.

According to the most recent proposal, both Mattie Lively and Sallie Zetterower would gain more than 100 students - Mattie Lively's zone would increase by 168 students, Sally Zetterower's by 146.

Though, many students can and will elect to remain at their old school by providing their own transportation, said Wilson.

Questions asked by board members Tuesday night pertained to transportation costs, the potential effect on teachers and amount of time spent by students on a bus.

"We are going to try identifying information they have asked for and get it back to them prior to the next meeting," said Wilson. "We have already addressed many of the other issues been asked throughout the process."

District Six representative Anshul Jain inquired about changes in transportation costs as a result of the change, and the amount of time affected students will spend on a bus due to a new route.

According to School Superintendent Lewis Holloway, the zoning changes will be "close to cost-neutral," and most students will spend less time on the bus; those with added time will only be traveling a short distance more, he said.

Board member Mike Sparks asked why other schools - Nevils, Portal and Stilson Elementary Schools - have not been included in plans.

"There is no need to go in that direction," said Holloway. "Those schools are already operating at an ideal capacity and we don't want to touch areas that we don't have to."

According to the superintendent, about six teachers will be required to move as a result of the new zones.
Teachers who want to change schools will be given the first opportunity to move, before the most-recently hired educators are relocated, said Kevin Judy, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources.

Thus far, administrative staff have mailed letters to affected homes and made phone calls to learn how many students will relocate.

According to Holloway, about 250 students would be affected by transportation zones changing, and it is estimated that at least 150 will switch schools.

With the topic tabled for the board's next meeting, Wilson will continue to address the concerns expressed by affected parties, he said.

A potential vote could be held Thursday, April 14 at the board's regularly scheduled session.

"We need to act with the assurance that administrators have the assets and resources to make it right," said Steve Hein, board member for district four. "I encourage that we do move forward with the plans."

"We have got to keep the kids in mind," said David Ball, Board Chairman.

"We built these new schools big enough to put these kids in. We need to go ahead and expedite that for this coming fall."

Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.



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