Franklin County BOE to Vote on New Royston Elementary School Site Next Month

Three out of five Franklin County School Board members say they believe a proposed site in Franklin Springs is the best place to put the new Royston Elementary School.

No decision was made or vote taken at the school board meeting Tuesday evening, but Board members were given the opportunity to voice their opinions by School Superintendent Chris Forrer in the spirit of transparency.

Before that, the Board heard again from members of the Franklin County community regarding the two main sites being considered.

One is in Franklin Springs at the intersection of Highway 145 and Bryant Park Rd and the other is 35 acres at the intersection of Highway 17 and the Royston 17 Bypass in Royston, which would be purchased by the City of Royston and given to the school system, according to City Mayor David Jordan.

A new site on Dovetown Road was also brought before the Board Tuesday night.  A 60-acre farm owned by Shirley Moore. Moore is a retired para-pro at Royston Elementary, a school mentor, and a lifelong resident of the City.

She told the Board it would be an honor to sell her farm to the School system for the new school.

“The land would be put to good use for something that we would truly love,” she said. “It will carry on the Royston name and I know my Daddy would be so proud…I want the Royston family farm to be the developing site for the new Royston Elementary,” she told the Board.

A letter from Billy and Brenda Atkinson, who live on Bryant Park Road, was also read to the Board in which they asked the Board to not consider the Franklin Springs site.

In the letter, read by Ann Bryant, they cited a number of issues with the land including its historical value.

“This is the worst possible place for a school,” the Atkinson letter stated. “There are many problems regarding this site. It has an Indian graveyard, a civil war monument, a lake or one-half of a lake, alcohol sales, a car lot, and the adjoining land is leased for hunting and not to mention that it will cost millions to get the property ready to build on.”

Another citizen, Joe Bryant also spoke to the Board and indicated there could be lawsuits if the Board goes with the Franklin Springs property.

After the Public Comment period Board Chair Robin Cato, a native of Franklin Springs said she’s in favor of putting the new school in Royston.

“Based on two choices, I think the one that best serves the children, the taxpayer, the county is the one in Royston,” she said. “Royston wants the school. They have spent many hours, resources to work with us. They’ve made it very clear by giving us property, however they can package it to keep the school there, it’s that important to them.”

Cato noted that traffic on U.S. 29 is already a nightmare in the morning and adding school buses and other school traffic would make matter worse.

Board member Randall Gailey agreed with Cato and apologized in advance to the citizens of Royston for what he believes is an inevitable vote to put the new school in Franklin Springs.

Both Cato and Gailey noted no one in Franklin Springs has ever come to them saying they want the new elementary school in their town.

But Board vice-chair Alan Mitchell said he is in favor of the Franklin Springs site because of the size of the county and the wide-area the school serves.

“In my opinion, we need to locate this school where it can best serve the children. I feel that the Franklin Springs property is the most favorable property that we have looked at. It’s in a safe location. We have support from Franklin Springs as stated by the mayor at our last work session in that the infrastructure is or will be there and they will provide police as needed for traffic. It is a very accessible location for all students and faculty to attend,” he said.

Mitchell noted that the traffic issues near the intersection of U.S. 29 and Highway 145 might actually cause the Georgia Department of Transportation to install a roundabout in the area, which he said has been needed for some time.

Kent Hall also said he was in favor of the Franklin Springs site because he believes it’s more centrally located.

And new Board member Gary Minyard also said he liked the Franklin Springs location and said the site in Royston at the 17 Bypass is dangerous because of the railroad track going past it.

After hearing from the Board members, Randall Gailey made a motion to take a deeper look at the Dovetown Road property, but it died for lack of a second.

Forrer then announced there will be a final presentation at their next work session on February 4th.

Then, he said, at the regular meeting on February 9th the Board will formally vote on the site.