By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Board of Education Member Charlton Bivins went to address Morrow High School parents, to dispel "false information" about overcrowding at the school, during a meeting of its Parent-Teacher Student Association on Thursday.
He ended up being the target of their anger and frustration instead.
Three years ago, Clayton County public school officials announced plans to construct a new Morrow Middle School building, and merge the old middle school building into neighboring Morrow High School, to relieve overcrowding. The new middle school opened this fall.
Rather than merge the old building into the high school as planned, however, the district moved its transitional program, International Center, and the Elite Scholars Academy Charter School into the building.
Bivins said Thursday that 11 classrooms in the building have been given to the high school. He said the Elite Scholars Charter School is expected to only occupy the building for three years. He described Elite Scholars, the transitional program, and the International Center, as programs within a high school.
"I am a big supporter of Morrow High School getting that building," he said. "We are only doing this because Elite Scholars needed a place. Once a home is built for Elite Scholars, we will get all of that building."
Parents and students have not been happy about the decision to move the charter school, and the other two programs into the old Morrow Middle School building, after the building had been promised to the high school.
Bivins faced down complaints from parents that students will have a poor learning environment, because they will be tightly packed into the high school building, and students have little time to eat their lunches, because lines in the school cafeteria are so long.
"Convenience is not the county's main concern right now," Bivins said in response to the complaints. "Quality [of education] is first and foremost at this time."
He also faced criticisms that the public was not given an opportunity to include its input on any changes on how the building would be used. Elite Scholars will get the bulk of the building, 40 percent of it, and the high school will be able to use 30 percent of the facility for classroom space, Bivins said.
The board member added that because Superintendent Edmond Heatley was only putting programs into a high school, getting community input beforehand "is something he doesn't have to do."
But, some parents said they felt insulted because their input was not sought. "Whether it's mandated or not, out of common courtesy, and respect for us in the community, you should have come to us," Morrow High School parent, Valencia Stovall, told Bivins. "It was poor planning.
"The superintendent, and the school board, are not really taking ownership of the fact that the faculty, parents, and community were not given a chance to make their voices heard," Stovall added.