Because of leaks and other hurricane-caused damage at the old Julia P. Bryant School, the Cedarwood GNETS program is relocating to available classrooms in the two Portal schools and Statesboro High School effective Jan. 7, the Bulloch County school system announced this week.
This is a temporary move, expected to last until the end of the current school year, May 24, with Cedarwood able to return to the former JPB campus when the new school year begins.
The Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support, or GNETS, provides therapeutic services to students in kindergarten through 12th grade with emotional or behavioral difficulties identified by a committee in their regular school. The GNETS unit called Cedarwood, which currently serves students from Bulloch, Evans and Jenkins counties, has been based since 2013 in the former JPB Elementary School, on Donnie Simmons Way near the current school of the same name.
Bulloch County provides the space on a regional contract, and 31 of the 37 current Cedarwood students are Bulloch County students, reported Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations specialist.
In September 2017, the Bulloch County Board of Education was approved for a $807,613 reimbursement grant from the Georgia Department of Education toward $1 million worth of proposed renovations, including reroofing, at the facility. After further planning, that work was scheduled for summer break 2019. The school system also received Federal Emergency Management Agency and Georgia Emergency Management Agency assistance after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and repairs were made.
But after ice last winter and winds from Hurricane Michael this October caused further damage, a more urgent situation developed.
“Michael really caused problems that the contractors and architects tell us can’t be fixed easily,” Greene said Friday. “That caused us to lose completely the use of two rooms. The building is still structurally sound, there’s no danger to students, but they’re having to use two less classroom spaces, which just isn’t ideal for the type of therapeutic services they provide.”
So, to allow time for roofing and major repairs, the GNETS classes are being moved to the available classrooms on three active Bulloch County school system campuses. These students and the teachers and other professionals who work with them will occupy one classroom at Portal Elementary School, four classrooms at Portal Middle High School and one classroom at Statesboro High School.
Some of these students are already enrolled in regular classes at Statesboro High School and Southeast Bulloch High School for a portion of the day, so Statesboro High School will host a GNETS class to serve them the remainder of the day, Greene reported in a news release.
Other seventh- through 12th-grade students who receive GNETS services will be placed at Portal Middle High. A majority of Cedarwood GNETS students in this age group, 57 percent, return to their regular, zoned schools daily to take one to four classes with their regular education peers, Greene reported.
“This support and effort toward equitable inclusion is one reason that Cedarwood was named the top GNETS facility in the state in 2017,” she wrote.
What it’s not
In an effort to avert confusion, the school district is pointing out that the children Cedarwood serves are not alternative-school students. Bulloch County’s alternative program, Transitions Learning Center, shares the William James Educational Complex on Williams Road with the Board of Education offices and is entirely separate from GNETS.
“Cedarwood is not an alternative learning facility,” the release states. “The children are not being disciplined nor have they been expelled from their zoned schools. The children are held to the same code of conduct and behavior expectations as all students in Bulloch County.”
The principals of the two Portal schools will host a shared meeting, open to the public, at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Portal Elementary School cafeteria. They plan to explain how their specific schools will serve and accommodate the GNETS program as well as their own students.
Parents with questions about the program at Statesboro High are asked to call the school’s principal.
The school system’s full announcement can be found under “Bulloch County School News” at www.bulloch.k12.ga.us.