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Greenville Academy closing, for now

It was a mixture of excitement and disappointment this week for the faculty, staff and students of Greenville Academy.

The disappointing news is that after 31 years and approximately 700 graduates, school officials have formally announced that there will be no school session this year, putting an end to rumors that have been circulating about the school's future.

However, the school board also announced they have reached an agreement with Associated Butler County Development Corporation (ABCD) to purchase the land the school sits on along with another 3.81 acres on what's commonly called &uot;Watermelon Hill,&uot; the site where the annual Watermelon Jubilee is held. The Jubilee has been the school's main fundraiser each year.

&uot;The school has always tried to acquire the land from ABCD Corporation, but ABCD wasn't interested in selling,&uot; said Greenville Academy board member Randy Beeson.

Beeson said in the past the school has been at a disadvantage by not having the property to use as collateral to borrow money in times of financial need to help fund the school, but the purchase of the land will allow that to happen should the school reopen in the future.

&uot;Anybody who has attended the school knows that when GA had to borrow money, they had to do so on the signature of any member of the school,&uot; he said. &uot;It was always a difficult task to ask somebody to sign for a line of credit.&uot;

Beeson said that part of the agreement to purchase the land included giving ABCD a 50-foot right of way for a new road that eventually will connect Academy Drive with New Searcy Road, opening the area up for residential growth.

Board president Phillip Graham said negotiations to purchase the land have been ongoing for several months and that they fully intended to be able to have school this year, but just ran out of time.

&uot;We've been working on this since the first of June,&uot; he said. &uot;We didn't give up on having school until the end of June. When we realized we weren't going to open it became our goal to make sure that everybody got paid. We didn't want to go out with a black eye.&uot;

Both Graham and Beeson confirmed that all outstanding payables the school owes have been paid, with checks being mailed late this week. Beeson also said that parents who had registered their children for the coming year have been notified that there will be no school this year.

The board hopes to be able to open the school next year, possibly offering a kindergarten through fifth grade program if enrollment is not sufficient to justify classes in upper grades. They also have plans to modernize the school and add curricular and extra-curricular activities if the school reopens hoping to draw students and faculty back.

&uot;In my opinion I don't think it will be difficult (to reopen),&uot; Beeson said. &uot;In actuality if you kill all the bad press and bad rumors and show that you improve the academics as well as the extra-curricular we hope to pull them back.&uot;

&uot;We'd like to (open) if the economy permits,&uot; Graham added. &uot;But when we realized we could not run a fully accredited school and give the kids what they needed, we realized we needed to reorganize.&uot;

In the meantime the board will continue to hold the Jubilee to help raise funds to pay for the land and Graham said the school might sell some of its assets to fund the purchase.

Graham said the last few months have been difficult with the negotiations and uncertainty the school has faced, but praised the work of the board for sticking together and working through the details, which he hopes will allow the school to open in the future.

&uot;It's been a long summer,&uot; he said. &uot;But the whole board stuck together on this, so kudos to them, and the folks at ABCD have been wonderful.&uot;