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School Board hopefuls discuss site for new school

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The six candidates running for a seat on the Germantown Municipal School Board in the Nov. 6 election displayed different levels of concern regarding the site for a future elementary school but all agreed that community input should be a priority.

During a candidate forum hosted by the Leadership Germantown Alumni Association and moderated by WREG’s Richard Ransom, each of the hopefuls for Positions 1, 3 and 5 were asked their comfort level with the 31.3-acre site near Winchester Road and Crestwyn Drive proposed by the city’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) but ultimately tabled by the Germantown Municipal School Board last month.

Natalie Williams, the incumbent for Position 3, noted that Mayor Mike Palazzolo and staff have “spent well over a year examining available properties.”

“I don’t know that we’ve done the due diligence,” she said. “We haven’t sent in the architects and engineers, the experts, that know how to look at a piece of property and lay everything out and tell us if this is a viable site.

“Until we have community feedback,” she said, “and feedback from experts, I don’t know that it is fair to say where in the city is the best place (to build a new school). We have to do a little more digging.”

Challenging incumbent Linda Fisher for Position 1 is Laura Meanwell, who noted that she is partial to a future school near Forest Hill-Irene and Poplar Pike.

“I wish that community engagement had happened before the decision by the BMA,” she said, “and the tabling by the school board. Lets get through the next step of getting public input and we can make our assessment from there.”

Mindy Fischer, who is running for the open Position 5 seat, said she began considering sites for the future school more than two years ago as a member of the GMSD Facility Planning Committee.

“I wanted to look more in the Forest Hill-Irene and Poplar Pike area,” she said, “so we wouldn’t build right on top of GES and GMS. But there are not a lot of choices. God’s not making any more land. We can make both sites really great. This is a forever decision.”

Amy Eoff, who is also running for Position 5, said she leans toward a new school site close to GES and GMS because, “When we get those (schools) back, one can be converted into a district office.”

“My concern is that the community heard about this decision (of the proposed site) on a Friday,” she said, “and there was a vote on a Monday.

“We need to be hearing from the people long before we’re making these kinds of decisions.”

Suzanne Jones is challenging incumbent Williams for Position 3.

“I am concerned,” she said, “not so much about a specific piece of land but about the process. The Board of Education should have been involved in determining the criteria and every stage of looking at this. Now is not the time that our board should be getting educated about this situation.

“The decision we’re making for a site to build a school will be with us for 40- to- 50 years,” she concluded. “We have put ourselves in a position, unfortunately, where we’re going to have to get all of our feedback within 30 to 60 days. That’s a lot to get.”

Noting that there is a limited amount of land on which to build the future school, Position 1 incumbent Linda Fisher said the city of Germantown is the “funding body” that has been “looking for land for our school.”

“This is something that is going to affect us 30- to- 40 years down the road.”