The Floyd County School district met in the Coosa High School Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night with a substantial number of Cave Spring residents to discuss their proposed plan to close Cave Spring Elementary School at the end of the 2021-22 school year. In the first part of the meeting FCS administrators explained the issues they faced and the plan they have developed to address those issues. In the last hour of the meeting supporters of keeping the school open were allowed two minutes each to express their opinions or ask questions.
All reasons presented by the administration for closing the school were financial, primarily based on the size of Cave Spring Elementary’s student body. At the moment Cave Spring only has 262 students. According to the presentation, Cave Spring needs for Capital Outlay exceeded $4.6 million. They stated that the current state requirements meant the school would not qualify for any state funding unless the student population met or exceeded 450. (Note- According to the DOE website, 160-5-4-.08 an elementary school would be fully funded with 200 students, a middle school with 400 and a high school grades 9-12 with 500.) Because of Floyd County’s dwindling student population the proposed plan is to reduce the number of schools in Floyd County to 12, with a high school, a middle school and an elementary school in the Armuchee, Coosa, Model Schools could al and Pepperell districts and no school in District 5 which includes Cave Spring. McHenry Elementary was in District 5. It has already been closed, but was used this year to house Pepperell Middle School while their new facility was completed. In the next ESPLOST the board will request funding to build a new elementary school on property adjacent to Coosa High School so that Garden Lakes, Alto Park and Cave Spring Elementary students could all be in one building. By doing that there could be 12 schools in Floyd County School District.
The first speaker on behalf of CSE was Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware. He thanked the board members for the opportunity and asked them to please keep an open mind regarding plans to be presented. ( At the meeting with the Cave Spring Elementary Local School Governance Team Dr. Glenn White repeatedly stated that he had made up his mind and would not consider any alternative, but in emails from members of the school board several asked that alternate proposals be presented for consideration.) Joyce Mink presented two alternatives. Both involved moving students from the Alto Park and former McHenry area to Cave Spring Elementary. Because Cave Spring Elementary School is FCS only certified STEM school and the community is readily accessible for employing the STEM methods school it would be the ideal site to develop as a magnet school or a charter school. At this time Rome City currently has three STEM schools but Cave Spring Elementary is the only one in Floyd County and there is only 1 other in all of NWGA. In fact Cave Spring is on its way to STEAM certification. It could easily become the crown jewel of the county system. Because Floyd County is already a charter system, changing its status would be easy.
Tom Lindsey challenged the financial issues presented and asked the administration for a detailed breakdown of the expense involved in keeping the school open. As long-time resident of Alto Park, Steve Harper discussed the advantages of closing it instead and moving its students to CSE. Since closing it is also on the agenda, starting with Alto Park would be reasonable. Corie Dempsey added that if they close Cave Spring and the ESPLOST doesn’t pass, CSE would be lost for no good reason. Some parents commented about the long bus commute that 4-6 year-olds would have to make and how detrimental that would be. Several families expressed plans to move their children out of district if CSE is closed further reducing students in the district. Sandra Lindsey and Zach Casey challenged the board to think outside the box and develop a better plan. Doug Burrier offered to help them develop it using his company resources without charge.
Many excellent comments were made regarding the quality of education, the nearby EMT,fire and police departments, and the community support system. John Johnston enumerated the nearby cultural facilities like Fairview School and the Cherokee Cabin. He described events using the famous cave and Rolator Lake and Park for classes only a short safe walk from the school.
Wes Walraven said he was concerned that the board would hold such a meeting in the midst of a pandemic when the event could have been postponed until a vaccine is readily available. He agreed with several others that passing an ESPLOST may not be easy in the current economic situation. Jarrod Kinsey and many others spoke fervently about the impact of closing the school on the entire community and some talked of the loss of property values and the negative economic impact on South Floyd County.
At the close several board members promised to seriously consider alternatives. Dr. White concluded by saying the vote would take place at the board meeting in January as planned.