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Jones may house literacy program
Elementary school closed at the end of the school year due to budget cuts
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Jones Elementary School said goodbye to its kindergarten through fifth-grade students a month ago, but the doors may not be closed this fall.

On Monday, the Hall County school board will decide whether Jones should partner with North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College to start the Sylvester Jones Early Literacy Program at Jones Elementary.

Two main hallways, along with the gym and cafeteria, would be open for the program and four prekindergarten classrooms — one from Chicopee Woods Elementary, two from Lyman Hall Elementary and one systemwide special needs room.

“We’re looking at taking 60 to 70 students who we call the ‘fragile learners,’ or the English-language learners, from Lyman Hall to help them with space,” said David Moody, Hall County director of elementary education. “It’s an opportunity to do something innovative with the best practices of literacy and language.”

Before the board meeting Monday, Moody plans to hammer out details with the schools and Patty Robinson, the county’s early literacy expert. If the board approves the plan, Moody will continue conversations with the two colleges and start taking applications from Hall County elementary staff to lead the project.

“We wanted to do something that really focuses on the reading goal in the county, understanding the importance of kids being literate by age 8,” he said. “We want to work with students as quickly and early as we can.”

But it’s as much about the older students as the younger students.

“The goal would be to build a beta site where we could do teacher training...” Moody said. “It’ll be a learning lab for them to teach, like the one we have at the World Language Academy.”

But not everyone is excited.

Chad Cobb, former Jones Parent Teacher Organization president who spoke out against the closing at public meetings, plans to ask questions Monday about the finances of the new project.

“My first reaction is, the reason to close was because we didn’t have the money and upgrades needed to be made,” he said Friday.

“If the building is open, the upkeep of the building with power, water and all the basic needs will have to be paid for.”

The two hallways that will be used are the two largest in the school, Cobb noted.

“And the gym is the most used and most power-draining part of the school,” he said. “I want them to use the school, but I was a little taken aback that they are so quickly wanting to move something in that would cause them to spend money. We have a right to know why and how they’re doing this.”

The main cost-cutting goal remains the same, Superintendent Will Schofield said Friday.

“A large cost was from personnel and staffing. This is a cost-neutral project,” he said. “The savings we experienced by closing Jones were from a duplication of services, so we incorporated students into other schools. This project will be completely funded by people moving from existing positions to that building and from partnering with the colleges.”