Financial woes puts GA’s future in question

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Greenville Academy’s students, parents, faculty members and alumni were faced with some disappointing news last week during an open meeting at the school – the school may have to close its doors this summer unless a solution to its financial difficulties can be found.

Several parents who attended the meeting said the school board members present at the meeting reported the school would have to resort to a merger with Sparta Academy of Evergreen in addition to acquiring additional financial support from the school’s parents to keep the institution in business.

The parents said they were told 25 to 30 families each were being asked to take out $5,000 loans for the school to help the board pay the school’s debts, including teachers’ salaries for the past two months.

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The merger with Sparta Academy would involve keeping students in grades K-5 at the Greenville Academy facility and busing the students in grades 6-12 to Sparta to attend school there.

The merger was voted down and the families rejected the $5,000 loans proposal.

Now the school’s fate rests in the hands of the board, the parents said.

School board member Janice Stinson confirmed last week that the merger with Sparta had been discussed and voted down at the meeting.

&uot;That was only one of our options,&uot; she said. &uot;The board met Friday to discuss what will happen next. We will have school at Greenville Academy next year.&uot;

Stinson would not elaborate on how the school board plans to keep the school open or when a statement would be issued.

Board president Phillip Graham and board member Randy Beeson were unable to be reached for comment.

In addition to the school’s financial woes, Headmaster Robert Andress confirmed that he is no longer the headmaster of the school and will be taking a position elsewhere. Andress declined further comment on the situation until Graham and the GA board issued its statement.

Greenville Academy was founded in 1971 &uot;to offer an alternative to public education in Butler County,&uot; the school’s website reads. Located just off the Greenville Bypass at 177 Academy Drive, the school has been an integral part of the educational community and the home of the successful annual Watermelon Jubilee festival.

Rumors have flown since the open meeting about the school’s fate – one of which centered around Fort Dale Academy wanting to use the school as a second campus site.

&uot;We have no interest in a second campus at this time,&uot; said FDA board president Cleve Poole. &uot;We have just recently built a new classroom building that more than adequately serves our needs at this time.&uot;

Poole said he would be disappointed to see GA, which he considers a valuable member of the academic community, close its doors.

&uot;We would do everything we could to help those students who would be left without a school, and welcome them to consider Fort Dale if that should happen,&uot; Poole said.

Other alternatives for the school seem to center around its consideration as an additional YMCA and Greenville Parks and Recreation site. But no one with those entities are prepared to speak on the matter until GA’s board decides what it will do.

The school’s possible closing presents an interesting prospect for the site’s landowners because it sits on a prime piece of real estate. The company that owns the land on which the school sits is the Associated Butler County Development Corporation. The company was established to develop property located around the Greenville Bypass.

Carlton Whittle is a principal shareholder and board member of the ABCD Corp.

He said that the company is awaiting a proposal from GA’s school board, and expects a decision regarding the school to be made by the end of next week.

According to the agreement that was set up when the school was established, Whittle said, the land would revert back to the ABCD Corporation if the school ceases to exist.

&uot;Many of the schools in this area are on land grants under the same type of agreement,&uot; he said. &uot;If the school closes or is moved, the land reverts back to the original owners or their heirs. It’s something that you never expect to happen, but if it does, we will try to do something that is equitable for everyone concerned.&uot;

But, Whittle said, ABCD has approximately 100 shareholders and their interests would have to be looked after.

Whittle said that his company hasn’t received any offers from retail corporations wanting to purchase the site so far.

&uot;It would be premature to talk about selling it at this time, because we don’t know what GA’s school board is going to do – we don’t have possession of the property right now,&uot; he said.