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Waste Watchers: School that cost taxpayers $12 million is nearly empty

7:50 PM, Nov 8, 2012   |    comments
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ga - A new state of the art school that cost Fayette County taxpayers nearly $12 million has less than two dozen students, and the school district may soon sell it.

Rivers Elementary School on Sandy Creek Road in Fayetteville opened in 2009, but a district spokesperson says it has never had more than about twenty students. In fact, the school has never served as a fully operational elementary school. Instead, it's used to educate students with behavioral issues.

Holly Abundez, a taxpayer who has lived in the area for twenty years, says she never understood the decision to build the school.

"I thought it was odd," said Abundez. "I thought it was so close to the other one (another school) and I know the other schools need funding. It was a waste."

Fayette County Schools spent $755,000 to purchase the land, then $11,100,000 to build Rivers Elementary.

School spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach says at the time the school board voted to build Rivers Elementary, the county was growing. The board was looking at projections that indicated the area around Rivers was about to experience significant growth.

It didn't happen.

"Based on the numbers we had at the time, it was the placed we needed to build an elementary school," said Berry-Dreisbach. "If we had a crystal ball and could look into the future, we could have backed off."

However, Berry-Dreisbach says at one time, the board did consider changing their construction plans.

"The board discussed it," said Berry-Dreisbach. "At the time, they felt like in the future there would be a need for an elementary school there, and they felt it would be cheaper to build it at that time rather than wait because construction costs go up.

The school has twenty nine staff members, including teachers and custodians, which is more than the number of students.

"It's an irresponsible use of valuable money," said Holly Abundez.

It will be next year before the Fayette County School Board decides whether to sell the school building. Another option is to close two other schools and move the students to Rivers Elementary.

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