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Super addresses construction issues at McKenzie School

Superintendent Mike Looney and Board of Education member Johnny Lee met with the McKenzie PTA Thursday night to give an update on the progress of construction at the school and address any concerns the parents might have.

One of the foremost concerns was the idea that the board has plans to close McKenzie School and consolidate it with Georgiana once the new school is completed in Georgiana.

“We have no plans for that right now,” Looney said. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not saying there will never be those plans, but we have not had that discussion.”

Looney said a time might come when the board of education has to reconsider how things are distributed throughout the entire school system, not just at McKenzie.

“There may come a time that that’s what is best, but that’s not right now,” he said. “There is no preset thought process that we’re out to ‘get’ McKenzie or close McKenzie.”

However, Looney said there are a number of concerns facing the school.

“I have no intentions of making a recommendation to close McKenzie, but honestly, I have some concerns,” he said.

The first concern was the fact that enrollment is down at the school.

“It’s very hard to deal with declining enrollment, and that’s not germane to McKenzie,” Looney said. “The population of the south end of the county is declining.”

Another concern Looney had was making sure that all students at McKenzie are residents of Butler County, which will also affect population.

His final concern was that McKenzie did not make Adequate Yearly Progress under No Child Left Behind.

“That’s an unfair measure of McKenzie,” Looney said. “There was no AYP because you had one student drop out. One student will kill the statistics with a small student body.”

Looney also addressed the delay in construction at the school.

He explained that the board made the decision to terminate the contract with the original architect of the project, and the new architect, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, have produced three different drawings and plans for the renovation of the school.

“It wasn’t intentional that the construction at McKenzie hasn’t started yet, but that’s just the way it’s panned out,” Looney said.

Looney gave a summary of the three different plans, which include new classrooms, a new science lab, a state-of-the-art computer lab and amphitheater, and renovated bathrooms.

“We’re going to make the best school we possibly can within budget,” he said.

Looney also talked about the timeline for the project.

“When will it come to fruition? When will we see dirt move? I would say late winter or early spring — maybe February or March,” he said. “It could be that we have some of it done by Fall ’09, but it could be that it takes longer than that with new construction.”

“We want to be smart about it,” Looney continued. “We don’t want to throw a plan together and not think about the long-term effects on the community.”