As representatives of District 1 in Newton County, we have heard concerns from our constituents about language in the upcoming Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax vote on March 19 as it relates to the future of Eastside High School.
We have jointly written this letter as district representatives and are not speaking for either the Board of Education or County Commission.
A portion of the SPLOST language refers to "...the urgent necessity for acquiring, constructing and equipping one replacement high school."
Eastside High School is less than 20 years old. Of the money collected, $45 million of the SPLOST funds may be used to build a replacement high school for Eastside and for other capital projects. According to the Newton County School System facilities plan, the Eastside building eventually is expected to transform into the system’s theme school for kindergarten through eighth grades.
The current NCSS enrollment of roughly 19,000 students is down from this time last year. With Alcovy High at a current enrollment of 1,800 students in a building that will hold 2,500, and the new Newton High currently enrolling 1,800 also set to open this fall with a 2,500 student capacity, we see no need to build yet another high school.
Certainly we don’t see, in Eastside High School, what the SPLOST language states as an "urgent necessity" for a replacement high school.
We do see a need to maintain Eastside High School in its current state to serve our constituents. If it should be closed, we can foresee that its students may be split between the other two high schools to fill empty seats rather than the NCSS undertaking the large expense of building another high school for a shrinking student population. While an expanded theme school is a worthy pursuit, we cannot support it at the potential cost of losing EHS.
We recommend the voters carefully consider the future of Eastside High School when voting on this referendum. We believe revised language may better clarify for the voters the more likely prospect of a new building for the current Theme School at Ficquett, rather than jeopardizing the high school which has served our part of Newton County so well.
John Douglas is the District 1 representative for the Newton County Board of Commissioners.
Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative for the Newton County Board of Education.