Students and teachers will not be the only people calling the Sallie Zetterower Elementary School home this spring.
The Bulloch County Board of Education approved last month a six-month rental agreement allowing Statesboro’s SouthBridge Community Church hold Sunday services within the school’s auditorium/cafeteria. In a work session last week, the board approved a revision to the agreement allowing the use of four classrooms as well, for the monthly cost of $2,456.
Through May, math and science textbooks will take a backseat to bibles and hymnals for a group of almost 200 who attend the weekly services.
“(The building) is perfect for us, and we’re thankful the board approved an agreement,” said Stewart Moody, Pastor at SouthBridge. “When you are first getting started, you just don’t have the resources (to purchase a building). Using this facility is very practical, functional and affordable.”
According to Moody, the space will allow for regular Sunday services, as well as a nursery and children’s Sunday school.
As an added benefit, the church is able to contribute to local education, he said.
“We wanted to help the community as well, so it was a natural thought to use a school,” Moody said. “We are giving back to the community in one sense.”
The benefit to local schools comes from the rent money paid by organizations who reserve space in underutilized facilities, said Hayley Greene, Public Relations/Marketing Specialist for Bulloch County Schools. The funds also pay for water, electricity and other maintenance costs associated with using the building, she said.
Currently, Bulloch County Schools rents space to several local organizations — Connection Church has an agreement with Statesboro High School, the CSRA Headstart program rents at the William James Complex and the Statesboro Food Bank has been leased room at the old Sallie Zetterower Elementary, Greene said.
The Bulloch County Recreation Department also rents various spaces for athletic events and annual camps.
“These are public facilities, and we make them available,” she said. “Because of free-access laws, we cannot refuse groups. But the way we have the rental agreements in place, only serious, well established organizations can use the facilities.”
The decision to use the public schools is an easy one, according to renters.
“We did it because we needed space. The school has a great auditorium and meeting area,” said Brandon Williams, Pastor at Connection Church. “And the thing we love about it is: we are able to put a lot of money back into the school system and hopefully make a positive impact in the schools. I think there is a lot of good that comes from it.”
According to Williams, Connection Church utilizes Statesboro High School’s Auditorium and rooms for Sunday services that average approximately 800 visitors each week.
A fourth tenant could soon enter the fold for Bulloch Schools, Greene said.
Cedarwood GNETS (Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support) Program, an education service for students with emotional and behavioral disorders and students with Autism, has contacted Bulloch Schools for a possible location to serve as a regional base, she said. The program currently serves Bulloch, Evans, Tattnall and other surrounding counties.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.