Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Budgets stop school improvements in Beaufort

From the Island Packet comes news of more fallout from school budget cuts. Editors take the position that local decisions are pragmatic, but pragmatism doesn't help the children who expect to attend school this fall. How long should they expect to defer a good-quality education before it's too late?

The board voted 6-5 on June 9 to immediately suspend about $1.3 million in capital improvements at schools that could close for the 2012-13 school year. Projects at Shell Point and Lady's Island elementary schools and Robert Smalls Middle School are on hold pending a decision on school closures, vice chairman George Wilson said.

The elementary schools are slated for possible closure on a list of options district officials are considering. The middle school could be consolidated with Battery Creek High School.

The work at those schools was to include projects such as computer lab and scoreboard additions and major painting projects, Wilson said.

"We don't want to do a lot of expenditures and then come around and shut down the school," he said.

The board will pay some penalties for halting the projects, but moving ahead would be foolish. The district has excess classroom space and likely diminishing revenue as a result of the economic downturn and reduced property values.

The board hasn't shown much stomach for the idea so far. In the face of public criticism, earlier this school year, it shied away from a proposal to close Shell Point Elementary. But consolidating schools to reduce overhead is one obvious way to cut costs.

The public also should be realistic about this prospect.

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