Buford City Schools could be operating a school inside of Hall County in the future.
At a meeting earlier this month, the Buford Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to authorize the city manager and city attorney to negotiate and purchase 16.43 acres located at 995 Gainesville Highway. City Manager Bryan Kerlin confirmed in an email to The Times that the property is within the city limits of Buford, but also in Hall County. The purchase has not yet been finalized, Kerlin said.
“The city is purchasing the property as a possible location for a future Buford elementary school,” Kerlin wrote in an email to The Times. “This is part of a long-range planning effort.”
Phillip Beard, who is chairman of both the Buford City Commission and the Buford City School Board, said the plan is to hold the property for a time in the future when they need a new school.
“We’ve got several new subdivisions in the area; they’re growing,” Beard said. “It will give us, sooner or later, enough elementary population for a future school. We’re just looking ahead. We try to stay ahead of the curve instead of behind it. We’ll have the land. It won’t all be gone, and we can buy it at a reasonable price now rather than buying it under duress later.”
Beard added that the property is in “the old Buford sphere of influence.”
“That’s Buford school district,” he said. “It’s an area that’s always been Buford. The telephones, the mail route, everything was right in there where we bought this school.”
Buford may consider other annexations into Hall County in the future, according to Beard.
“That’s basically the only way we can grow,” he said. “Sugar Hill is to the south of us. That’s about it … North of there was Flowery Branch. Of course, Flowery Branch really hasn’t come south... We’re just knocking on the door of Flowery Branch up there. We’re very deliberate in any move we make involving increasing the size of our schools and our city.”
Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield said he was aware of Buford’s plans. He has served as both a city school superintendent with Social Circle City Schools and a county superintendent in Hall County. He said he believes an “oversight” in the rewriting of the state constitution in the 1970s has caused school district lines to be affected by municipal annexations.
“There is no doubt in my mind that it was an oversight in the 1970s rewrite of the constitution for annexations by municipal governments to affect the boundary lines of school districts,” Schofield said. “I don’t think anybody at that time — and I’ve talked to some of the former rewriters of that constitution — that would have thought it was a good idea to change family school districts as municipalities annexed ground.
“I still feel that way; I think it provides incredible instability for families in those areas,” he added. “But again, Buford has to follow their strategic plans, I understand that. We’ve got a good relationship with them.”
Schofield said he has talked with Buford City Schools Superintendent Geye Hamby and was told Buford officials “want to put that land in inventory, but they don’t have any immediate plans for building any schools.”
“One of my strategic goals is not to grow the Hall County School District, so I can’t speak for anybody else on that,” Schofield said. “I want to serve the kids that are here, and I want to create some stability for them.”
The situation with Buford’s school district lines crossing into Hall County is similar to situations in other parts of the state, including the Atlanta Public Schools, whose city limits are in both DeKalb and Fulton counties, according Pat Schofill, director of facility services and pupil transportation, and Mike Campbell, research specialist, both at the state Department of Education.