McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

Want to impact your community? Many of McIntosh's citizen boards have open seats and a council at a loss as to how to fill them.

Light-up McIntosh December 15

Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.

07.19.07 -- Neighborhood meetings broach building local school


About 15 residents from Sportsman's Cove, Robert's Acres and other parts of McIntosh met in the screen room of the Cove last night to listen to Joedy Smith explain options for building the McIntosh Area Charter School a permanent building.

Two months ago, the McIntosh Town Council and organizers from the school met in a public workshop to discuss potential future plans for the school.

Five breakout meetings were planned around town, in which registered voters were invited to the homes of the charter school's board members. Casey Girardin, the owner of Sportsman's Cove, hosted last night's meeting. The meeting organizers will then report back to council members with feedback from the community.

Smith explained that the charter school would like a permanent building, because they are currently spending money renting expensive portables. He said school organizers feel their money would be better spent paying off a mortgage.

The school attempted to obtain a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. To do that, the school board would need to own the land the school where they would be building.

The charter school is located on the southern border of McIntosh on the town's land, next door to the doctor's office. The town was given the land from the county, and it was the site of the first McIntosh school in the early 1900's. The old McIntosh school closed in the 50's, and then was dismantled later in the 70's for scrap.

"We looked around and there's not really any other good place to build," Smith said.

The options for how to accomplish building a school have been narrowed down to two.

The first would involve the town giving the school the land. The risk with this option is that if the school failed, then the U.S.D.A. would want something done with the building and for it to be paid off. The land could feasibly go back to the county school board. The town's auditor, Richard Powell, informed the town clerk through an e-mail last week that this was a feasible method, but the town would need to declare the land surplus before deeding it over to the school.

The other option would be for the town to build the school building. This path would mean that the town would take on an approximately $1 million mortage and pays the U.S.D.A. off over 25 years.

Powell said in an e-mail that the risk with this option would be if the school failed, the town would be stuck with mortgage payments. Last night, Smith answered questions and supplied more information about the contingencies if the school did fail.

"Every thing's got a risk, but we think it's a low risk," Smith said.

Smith said school organizers were willing to put $64,000, the estimated amount of one year's mortgage payment, in escrow -- as a last month's rent sort of plan. If the school failed, the town would have one year to find another tenant for the building. Smith, an employee with the Department of Veteran's Affairs, said that he thought agencies like the VA are always interested in moving into a government buildings, especially ones that are already established.

Some residents said they didn't understand how a school could fail. Smith explained last night how charter schools are funded. The county provides a certain amount of funding per child called full-time equivalency, or FTE's. Therefore, the school could grave face financial problems if the enrollment dropped drastically.

Smith said that because the school's records are open to the public, due to Florida's Sunshine Laws governing open records, that the town would have forewarning if the school was doing poorly enough that failing was a concern.

He said that the school is doing a good job of saving money and was awarded a $160,000 grant from WalMart last year, but that money was not earmarked for building.

McIntosh Area Charter School is an elementary school serving grades K-5 only. Smith said they would like to build two phases of the school. The first phase would be a building with eight classrooms and the second would be a cafetorium, a combination cafeteria and auditorium area.

Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan was in attendance and asked if the cafetorium could serve as a hurricane shelter.

Smith said that in the best case scenario, they would pursue FEMA funding so the cafetorium could serve as a hurricane shelter and was confident they could get funding from that agency.

McIntosh does not currently have a shelter certified to withstand more than a Category 3 hurricane, by Red Cross standards.

One resident asked if the school was planning on expanding to a middle school and if only eight classrooms would be enough. Smith said that school organizers were talking about a middle school, since the school opened five years ago, and the children attending the school were graduating fifth grade. But he said some school organizers were hoping to expand to higher grades, but he was busy managing the growth of the elementary school.

The charter school has 103 pupils incoming for the next academic year, but only 19 of them are from McIntosh.

Councilman Lee Deaderick said that he wasn't sure where all the other McIntosh children went to school. He said he had some friends in McIntosh who sent their children to school in Gainesville, because they said they get a better education in Gainesville's schools.

Both Deaderick and Smith both did not think that the public schools in Marion County were as good.

When asked what was wrong with the public school in Reddick, Smith said that there are gangs, drugs and attitude problems in the public schools, even the elementary school.

"I don't want to say public schools are bad, I just think we can do better," Smith said.

Residents asked Smith about attendance and opinions expressed at the other neighborhood meetings.

Deaderick said there weren't negative comments, but there was a great deal of apathy, that people didn't care about building a school.

Smith said that one of the comments made was that the school organizers don't want to send McIntosh children to school with black children. He said that he knew the town had a history of racial bias, but that the school welcomed diversity.

"If a black child showed up tomorrow, he'd have a seat," Smith said. "As long as the classroom isn't already full."

While he and Deaderick, who was involved in the school before serving on the town council, did not know how many minorities the school currently has enrolled. Deaderick said that the first year, there were pupils from several different minorities.

Girardin compared the charter school to Catholic school she went to growing up. She said that the most important points about the community school was that the McIntosh children could have small classes, better discipline and could go to school with their neighbors.

Smith said there would be another meeting in the future in the Civic Center or another large venue so more people could attend.

posted by Cher @ 12:00 PM,


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Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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