Are Muscogee County schools ready for BRAC?

By Mackenzie Patterson - bioemail

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Most kids are out of school now, but thousands of students are moving into our area by the end of this summer.  It is all a part of base realignment and closure or BRAC, but are local school systems ready to see that many new kids?

Fort Benning says almost 7000 new students could come to Columbus and East Alabama by the end of this summer and that number is an estimate from 5 years ago.  So where does that leave planning for schools?

The Muscogee County School District is working on a tentative budget for next year which includes a little more than $1 million set aside for those move-in students.  The money would then go to pay for portable classrooms and hire new teachers.  We asked Muscogee County School Board member Cathy Williams if that number would be enough.

"We don't know right now yet whether we'll have elementary school, middle school, or high school.  It's a very difficult place to be from the planning perspective because there's too much unknown," said Williams.

Williams says they are estimating about 4500 students will move to Columbus, but if more students come, the money set aside might not hold up.  Williams says that could mean dipping into the reserve funds.

"If we dipped into the reserves too much and then something happened and we need those reserves, we wouldn't have them and then we'd be faced with some really difficult decisions."

Williams tells us, $16 million in reserves does not seem like much compared to a possible budget in the hundreds of millions, along with zero help from the federal government for the BRAC growth.

Williams says she hopes the $1 million set aside will be enough so the schools can make it at least to the middle of next school year.  This is when they can get an accurate count of how many students came from Fort Knox and then get funding for them.

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