Columbia County school officials bickered Tuesday over proposed legislation meant to keep Greenbrier High School athletes closer to home.
State Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, proposed a bill that would limit the round-trip travel of a school for sports events to 200 miles starting next school year.
Schools Superintendent Charles Nagle wrote in a Feb. 19 letter to the Georgia High Schools Association that he would be willing to wait until the 2010-11 school year to implement the law.
Some board members debated whether it was proper for Nagle to pen the letter opposing Harbin's bill without consulting them.
School attorney Pete Fletcher defended Nagle's action as an administrative decision.
Nagle said he wrote the letter to support the wishes of the school.
In his letter to the GHSA, he wrote that he, Greenbrier Principal Margie Hamilton and Athletic Director Garrett Black appreciated Harbin's efforts but they "understood the disruption that would be caused to various regions if this bill is passed."
The bill would allow for the reclassification of Greenbrier alone. However, it could affect the sports schedules of as many as 30 other high schools, said GHSA Executive Director Ralph Swearngin in a telephone interview.
Swearngin said he has contacted every school system possibly affected by the legislation.
"They (schools on Greenbrier's schedule) are all very concerned about where they are going to get games if they have to drop Greenbrier, because everybody else has a full schedule," he said.
Nagle added during the board meeting that schools in Greenbrier's possible new region then would have to make room on its schedules to play the Wolfpack.
Greenbrier High moved up in classification this school year, making it the only AAAAA school in the area. Thus, many sporting events require Greenbrier athletes to travel to metro Atlanta to face region competitors.
The basis for the GHSA classification is student population. Though Greenbrier will lose many of its students when they transfer to the new Grovetown High next school year, the school will remain in AAAAA another year.
The GHSA reclassifies schools every two years. The next round of reclassifications take place for the 2010-11 school year, when Greenbrier likely will drop back down to AAAA.
The GHSA adopted a rule similar to Harbin's bill in August, Swearngin said. However, they intended to wait until the 2010 reclassification to implement it and avoid disruptions.
"Travel time, time out of school and travel costs are problems for everybody, not just Greenbrier," he said.
A phone message left last week for Harbin was not immediately returned.
In other business, the board gave tentative approval to teacher and school support staff allocations for the next year.
The board voted to reduce nearly 20 paraprofessional positions in elementary grades, 12 special needs paraprofessionals, eight clerical positions in middle schools and four career specialists in high schools.
Trustees also approved cutting 37 teaching positions in elementary and middle schools, mostly through attrition.
The position cuts will offset budget cuts from the state, which is suffering a $2.6 billion shortfall in revenue.
Though the school system might be in line to receive as much as $7 million in federal stimulus funds, most of that money is earmarked for expanding special needs and Title 1 programs, Nagle said.
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