Decatur County Schools plan realignment for 2021-22 school year
At the April Board meeting the Decatur County Board of Education approved the Superintendent’s recommendation to reorganize Decatur County Schools for the 2021-2022 school year. Superintendent Tim Cochran stated that this plan had been considered for some time due to several factors. First and foremost, he said it is a better layout for Decatur County students and allows the school system to better serve their academic, social and emotional needs. The change also puts students in a more age appropriate format that aligns better to the academic expectations for each age group. Dropping from four attendance zones to two will prevent students from having to change schools as often if they move during the year, due to transportation issues. Cochran said the realignment also consolidates the grade levels into industry recognized, age appropriate levels for curriculum and teacher certification.
Another major factor in Cochran’s decision is due to the continued reduction in students that the system has experienced over the last decade. Cochran stated that once the school system loses so many students it had to decide to either decrease overhead or increase revenue. Increasing taxes is not an option that Cochran or the BOE wants to take unless all other avenues have been exhausted. Cochran went on to state that there is an economy of scale for merging facilities and the alignment will help the system to eventually recognize a savings of approximately $1.5 million a year in overhead and personnel cost.
The final major factor in the reorganization is maximizing earnings toward building the new Bainbridge Middle School. To earn the maximum funding from the State the school district has to show all middle school classrooms being phased out. With Hutto serving as a middle school, classrooms at Hutto would count against the system’s funding and would reduce the amount of funding the system could earn toward the new middle school. By reorganizing and having all the middle school classrooms in the district at Bainbridge Middle, it allows the system to phase out all of those rooms once the new building is constructed and earn the most state funding possible for the project. That saves the system and the community several million dollars on that one project alone, Cochran said.
The new organization scheduled to begin next school year will be as follows. All students in grades 6 thru 8 will attend Bainbridge Middle School. All students in grades 3 thru 5 will attend Hutto, which will become Hutto Elementary School. All students in grades PK thru 2 that attend Jones Wheat and Potter Street will attend Jones Wheat, which will become Jones Wheat Primary School. All students in grades PK thru 2 that attend West Bainbridge and John Johnson will attend West Bainbridge, which will become West Bainbridge Primary School. All students attending New Beginnings Learning Center will be relocated to the facility at Potter Street and John Johnson will be phased out.