Schools upbeat on budget

by Celia Shortt

Hopes are to restore some of the resources for Coweta schools cut in the last few years — if the state’s allocation for education grows as expected.

“The budget has not been passed by both sides yet, but it does look like it’s going to be in place,” said Coweta County School Superintendent Dr. Steve Barker at a Coweta Board of Education work session Friday.

Barker also said all the indications are the budget approved by Georgia’s legislature will bring “more state revenue,” and with it he wants to see what can be done to help not only students, but also school employees.

“Right now, we are trying to get those calculations and understand what that money, if it stays intact, will look like and bring [the school board] options that we can do to help our employees in some manner with those dollars,” he said.

Barker also unveiled some findings about school enrollment in the next 10 years.

He said that “overall enrollment is flat or slightly declining in the short term” due to several different factors, the largest of which is a slight reduction in the birth rate and retention to first grade.

Dr. Steve Salmon of R.K. Redding Construction Inc. said births are the best indicator for the number of first-graders.

RKR assisted Barker and Coweta’s Human Resources Director Vince Bass with this study. They also received information from the city of Newnan and from Coweta County.

“The city and county went out of their way to give us great data,” Barker said. “I want to thank the city and county for their hard work.”

Along with birth rate and birth-to-first-grade retention, Salmon and his team took into account building permits, municipality planning data, land saturation, subdivision lot inventory, and home prices/turnover/resale value.

They found that, in the next 10 years, student enrollment in Coweta County will remain between 21,000 and 22,000 students through the 2023-2024 school year.

Bass added the district will see some “small pockets of growth” as certain areas of the community are beginning to see more construction activity, but it may not mean student enrollment growth.

The research also showed that the capacity of Coweta’s school buildings remains sufficient, but there are a few schools near and above capacity. Building additions at those schools or plans for new schools are possible as growth returns.

Madras Middle School and Lee Middle School are two schools above capacity, but they are looking to remain steady in the short-term enrollment projections.

In regards to facilities, the school system is positioning itself to handle the situation if enrollment increases or decreases substantially. The Coweta School System will either build new facilities or renovate current ones, Barker said.

“As long as both options are on the table, I think you’re in the best situation you can possibly be in,” he told school board members Friday.

“You all have done a very good job of planning for your growth, planning for your future,” added Salmon. “If you look at some of your later schools … they are a little bit larger. You built them when you had the SPLOST money. You built them large enough to accommodate what you’re really going to need. As an outsider, it’s shown a lot of foresight in your planning.”

The school board also approved new board goals as a draft at the work session on Friday.

These goals mirror the goals of AdvancED System Standards, the organization through which they school system is accredited and are part of the five-year strategic plan of the school system.

The goals are:

• Function and lead effectively and ethically with clear vision and mission using best practices for boards of education.

• Ensure autonomy at all levels to meet goals for student achievement, to provide safe and effective day-to-day management of schools, and to expand the Central Educational Center (CEC).

• Foster effective stakeholder involvement in support of the system’s mission and vision.

• Ensure that leadership development opportunities exist for succession planning purposes.

These goals are part of the standards for a quality school system and will be dispersed to every school in the district for parents, teachers, and employees to see and comment on.

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