​School Board Entertains Another Townsend School Request

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At its Oct. 12 meeting, the Franklin County School Board entertained a request from Scarlet Patterson with the South Central Human Resources Agency (SCHRA) to transfer ownership of the Townsend School property to the agency. In other business, the board received an update on possible middle school sites and reviewed support services policies.
One of nine Human Resources Agencies created by the state in 1973, SCHRA serves 13 counties. The Franklin County branch has three locations, each offering different programs, including Head Start, a neighborhood service center and free meals for seniors.
“SCHRA would like to renovate Townsend School for use as a resource center, giving us an opportunity to expand our services,” Patterson said. “Franklin County Head Start and the Neighborhood Service Center would both be located there. We also hope to partner with other organizations needing space.”
SCHRA’s plans call for demolishing the old gym and filling in the basement along with erecting a memorial honoring the history of the school. SCHRA would continue to make the remaining gym available to the Franklin County Schools and other groups needing the facility.
“Ninety-three of SCHRA’s 450 employees are from Franklin County,” Patterson pointed out.
Board member Sara Liechty asked if SCHRA had funding available for the needed renovation.
“The South Central Development District rural transportation program would like to use the site for a hub,” Patterson said. “They would pay us for use of the property. SCHRA also has resources available from our fund balance and loan options.”
In September, the board entertained a similar request from the nonprofit Rain Unlimited (RU) to transfer ownership of the Townsend School property to RU for use as a teen center and hub for nonprofits needing office and meeting space. The neighborhood community favors demolition of the school and honoring the site with a memorial and park.
Reporting on research into locations for the new consolidated middle school, Tim Little with the engineering firm Oliver, Little, and Gipson (OLG) said several of the sites “are under cultivation and still have crops on them so we couldn’t walk the property. All four sites have obstacles,” Little added, mentioning drainage problems.
Board Chair Cleijo Walker said she spoke with representatives of the Stephens family trust regarding the 94-acre site at the corner of Hwy. 41A and Cumberland Street, across from the Franklin Farmers Cooperative. “The family is unwilling to sell a portion of the tract,” Walker said.
Leichty questioned the 50-acre minimum needed for the construction suggesting this might be excessive. “I don’t want to eliminate properties that would meet our needs due to size,” Liechty insisted. “Our original discussion stressed enhanced programming, not providing for football and soccer.”
“Playing fields take up room,” Little conceded. “The site could be smaller.”
In the annual review of Support Services Policies, Liechty called attention to misleading language in the Special Use of School Vehicles policy.
In the clause reading, “School buses may be used only for the transportation of school personnel on authorized school business,” Liechty suggested changing “school personnel” to “persons.” The policy needed to allow for transporting parents and others on school business, Liechty said. “The board has used the buses,” she noted.
Assistant Superintendant Linda Foster will revise the language and present it for review at the board’s work session on Monday, Nov. 6.