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Bay County Residents React to School Closing Proposals

By: Kristy Wolski, WJHG-TV
By: Kristy Wolski, WJHG-TV

As expected, Monday's Bay County School Board workshop became an emotional gathering for some people.

Board members had hoped to get public input on Superintendent Bill Husfelt's proposals for closing and re-purposing some schools, saving the district between $5.5 and $6 million.

School Board members have a lot to think about over the next few days. Concerned parents, students, educators and community members each had their own reasons for or against Husfelt's list of possible school closures.

Amid cheers from a packed school board meeting room, some students spoke up in support of their schools.

"At that place I've learned how to do a lot of stuff. I've learned how to paint, sculpt. There I learned how to not have stage fright. If it weren't for Oakland Terrace I wouldn't be up here right now," said Cannon, an Oakland Terrace student.

"My vo-tech teacher looked us in the eye and he said, ‘You know what? No matter what they do, no matter what decision they make, just remember that what you did here and what you make of yourself here, just take it and continue with it. Take it to whatever school you go to,’ " said Brandon Freeman, a Haney student.

Even with teacher assurances about safety being a priority, some parents have safety concerns about younger children attending school with 8th grade students.

"I understand those concerns. I am a parent. But I don't believe those concerns are not going to be addressed adequately as they are being addressed now," said Connie Roscoe, a Rosenwald teacher.

Some say the board needs to re-work the budget in other ways; for instance, looking at salaries.

"The head coach is over $75,000 a year. A teacher with a doctorate in Bay County with 30 years experience can make only $65,000. That hurts," said one concerned educator.

One person even suggested a trip to Tallahassee.

"I think you all should caravan over there while. You can cut. You can do whatever, but by God we can't lose our schools," said Gerry Lowther, Springfield Elementary S.A.C. Chairman.

While it's evident the final decision won't be able to make everyone happy, some say they're ready to support the necessary changes.

"At the current time there are only two classrooms at Margaret K. Lewis that meet the D.O.E. requirement for square footage, two classrooms! So we are so excited about having a school that will meet the needs of our children," said Judy Riera, a former Margaret K. Lewis principal.

The board members and Superintendent Husfelt say they will consider all of the input before making a final decision. The board is working to meet a January 15 deadline to vote on the budget cut, so a decision should be made fairly quickly.

Option 1:
-Repurpose Oakland Terrace
-Make Jinks K-8
-Re-designate Springfield Elementary
-Make Everitt K-8

Option 2:
-Re-zone Rosenwald Students
-Re-designate Rosenwald Middle
-Re-designate A.D. Harris High
-Repurpose Rosenwald for A.D. Harris

Both Options:
-Cancel CEP Contract and integrate Emerald Bay Academy students
-Repurpose Millville for Margaret K. Lewis
-Re-designate West Bay Elementary
-Close Haney High School
-Combine Shaw and Haney Tech


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