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Hall school board OKs plan for language center
Program will be housed in Jones Elementary building
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Budget concerns keep playing a heavy hand in decisions made by the Hall County school board.

Board members approved a new Early Language Development Center to be housed in the Jones Elementary building — but not without some questions about finances.

“The savings we realized from closing Jones came from economies of scale and duplicated teachers to the tune of $900,000,” Superintendent Will Schofield told the board. “One of the community’s greatest fears was leaving the building vacant, and now we’ll use seven or eight classrooms,”

The program will bring four pre-kindergarten classrooms — one from Chicopee Woods Elementary, two from Lyman Hall Elementary and one systemwide special needs room — to the same area and also start a literacy program for 60 kindergarten students from Lyman Hall.

“One of our top goals is for 90 percent of students to read at or above grade level by third grade,” Schofield said. “We can rotate our paraprofessionals through this beta site and use our new video conferencing capabilities. This is a new chapter as we pursue that goal.”

David Moody, Hall County elementary education director, began conversations with North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College to get student teachers involved with the program.

“This can examine the best practices of literacy,” he said. “We can give a unique setting with true at-risk students and use resources from the Gainesville State child development program.”

The board voted Monday to allow Moody to move forward with the plans. He will formalize partnerships with the colleges, begin a job search for teachers and present a more detailed program at the July 12 work session.

Chad Cobb, former Jones Parent Teacher Organization president, planned to ask questions Monday but instead decided to e-mail his questions to Schofield some time this week to receive more complete and informed responses.

“I want to know exactly how it will be funded and see some numbers,” Cobb said after Monday’s meeting. “I get e-mails and updates from teachers, and some still haven’t been placed at another school yet. I don’t think any paraprofessionals have been placed. This is their life and livelihood, and they’re waiting through the summer, wondering what to do next.”

The board also approved the final budget for fiscal year 2011, which starts Thursday. The budget includes $198 million in general fund revenues and about $194 million in general fund expenditures, ending with $3.6 million to “bail out” next year’s budget, Schofield said. The budget also accounted for a $250,000 cut made by the state last week, taking away $14 million in stimulus funds from schools to complete this year’s state budget.

“We didn’t receive budget allotment sheets until Saturday,” Schofield said. “In my 11 years, I’ve never seen that happen before. It’s a solace that we essentially quit spending in April. The state could cut 3 to 5 percent during the year, too.”