Columbia County Alternative School Principal Ja’net Bishop hopes to alleviate any fears harbored by community members about her students moving to an Evans campus next year.
Bishop, along with School Superintendent Charles Nagle, will hold an informational meeting Thursday to address the possible relocation of the alternative school from the Johns Building in Grovetown to Evans Elementary School on Gibbs Road, which will be vacant next year.
“It’s an opportunity for us to be able to share the mission, the vision as well as some of the accomplishments of the alternative school to date so that we would be able to calm any kinds of concerns (from) individuals who simply are not familiar about alternative education,” Bishop said.
The issue was first discussed publicly at the Nov. 27 school board meeting but officials later delayed voting on the relocation until a public meeting could be set.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Evans Elementary.
The county’s alternative school has spent the past six of its 20 years in existence at the Johns Building, which was built in 1938.
The school system decided to close the current facility because of its age, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Robert Jarrell said.
Funding is available for demolition of the current school, but not to build a new alternative school, Nagle has said.
“It’s an older building,” Bishop said. “It’s just not conducive to being able to offer the full range of services that students in public education are entitled to.”
Nearly 120 middle and high school students are enrolled at the alternative school. Of those students, only three or four drive and just two buses come to and from the school, Bishop said.
The Evans Elementary campus would be a good replacement, Bishop said, because of its central location and additional space.
If school officials approve the move, alternative school students would have access to a gymnasium and auditorium as well as a cafeteria, which don’t exist at the current site.
“We’re talking about a school that serves our at-risk kids who are still eager to complete their education, but now being able to do it in a more traditional environment,” Bishop said.
She believes the biggest concern nearby residents have is the “fear of the unknown.”
“These are just kids who made an inappropriate decision violating the code of conduct for which they had to pay a consequence,” Bishop said. “They’re the same kids who go to church or participate in the rec department, but even more specifically, they are the neighbors in the community as well.”