By John West
A large group of concerned citizens turned out at the LaFayette City Council meeting on Monday night to voice their concerns over the current school consolidation plan. Local resident Tammy Seroyer spoke on behalf of the group. Seroyer read from a resolution asking Mayor Vines and the LaFayette city council to donate land currently designated for the new LaFayette city park to the Chambers County Board of Education (CCBE.) The citizens are requesting that land be used by the CCBE to build the new consolidated high school, career technical center, and sports complex.
The LaFayette city council voted unanimously to support the resolution as presented by the citizens.
The citizens’ resolution was also accompanied by a petition with the signatures of 447 residents who want to save the LaFayette city schools.
“Our concerns are that we want our kids to stay here and go to school at their home school until we can get a consolidated high school here,” Seroyer said. “It’s for many reasons. We’re thinking about the time zones, were thinking about the burden that it will put on parents. We’re just here to make sure that everyone is treated fairly.”
Seroyer also said, “We’re just here because we’re concerned about our schools closing. We want to keep our kids at their home school if possible. We do want what’s best for our kids, we do want that to be known. We are for consolidation, that’s no secret, but we want the school to be in a centralized location.”
LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines and the LaFayette City Council were all in unison with the concerned parents and citizens. All agreed the consolidated high school should be placed in LaFayette since the city is the Chambers County seat and located in the center of the county.
“I am 1000% on board with having the school here in the City of LaFayette,” Vines said. “Not only looking out for the citizens of LaFayette, but overall looking out for the citizens of LaFayette as a whole. It is just devastating to me to think people that live up in the north end of the county, the west end of the county, and the south end of the county as well, really, truly getting their child up at 3:00, 3:30 in the morning to go to school. That right there really bothers me.”
“Not only that, the City of LaFayette, from my time of being here, and everyone in this room knows that when it comes to the City of LaFayette we are always overlooked,” Vines said. “We’re going to stand up and fight for our kids’ education. Now’s the time for everyone to be on this train, to be on board full steam ahead. We need everybody’s support, not just myself and this council. Everybody that’s in LaFayette and concerned about your child’s education, whether you have a child in the system or not, if your concerned about the city of LaFayette and the welfare of nieces and nephews, cousins, whatever, we all need to be onboard. Support the schools in the city of LaFayette.”
The current school consolidation plan will go into effect for the 2022/23 school year. The current plan consists of closing LaFayette High School for renovation and repurposing into a Pre-K—8 STEAM school. LaFayette High School will merge with Valley High School until a new consolidated High School can be built. LaFayette High students will have to commute or bus to Valley High School. The consolidated school will take on a new name, mascot, and color scheme. Ground will be broken on the new campus during the 2024/25 school year. Construction is expected to last 24-30 months. The future school’s location has not been confirmed.
Additionally, J.P. Powell Middle School, Eastside Elementary School, and Five Points Elementary School will merge to form the LaFayette Pre-K—8 District Wide STEAM Academy. Likewise, Shawmut and Lafayette Lanier will merge to form Huguley and Fairfax Pre-K—5. Construction will begin on these new schools after the new consolidated high school is completed.
Chambers County School Superintendent, Casey Chambley, has cited federal desegregation orders, unused space in the current schools, and more course offerings at Valley High as reasons for the current consolidation plan.