We were supportive from the time Columbia County School Superintendent Charles Nagle first unveiled an ambitious five-year facilities plan to revamp many of the older schools in the system.
A recent report from a site survey team formed by the Georgia Department of Education, however, goes further - not only endorsing the school system's plan but applauding school officials for their vision in putting it together.
In a nutshell, the plan calls for razing and rebuilding a handful of too-small, outdated schools, replacing them with larger, more modern facilities that in a couple of cases also would be closer to the populations they now serve. The plan also would phase out one school, distributing its population among two other larger, more-efficient schools.
Most of the funding for the nearly $150 million program would come from renewal of the education sales tax, which will be on the ballot in July. If it passes - and it should, easily - the school board would immediately sell bonds to jump-start the projects, with repayment coming from sales tax proceeds.
The state's survey team was less concerned with those details than with verifying Columbia County's need for the program. After all, the state provides part of the funding for most schools; they don't take it lightly when a local system asks to tear one down - much less when they're talking about razing as many as eight.
In that aspect, the team gave the plan a ringing endorsement. "The Columbia County school system is commended for quality long-range planning to provide excellent facilities to meet the demands of rapidly increasing and shifting enrollment," the members reported.
"The Columbia County school system is commended for developing an aggressive and visionary facilities plan to meet the continuing needs of the children of Columbia County," they added.
On May 4, 11 and 18, the school board is scheduled to hold meetings to present next year's school system budget and to answer the public's questions. Those meetings primarily are designed to discuss the 2010-11 operating budget for the school system, but officials certainly should be prepared to answer questions about the facilities, plan, too, since the program would kick into gear next year.
So far we've found no reason to disagree with the plans, and the state's survey team has given its endorsement. Taxpayers should make every effort to check it out, too, to make an informed decision on the July ballot.
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