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Board votes to close School of Discovery

The School of Discovery Genesis Center will close its doors at the end of the 2008-2009 school year. The Selma City School Board voted Tuesday in a called meeting to close the school and use the current facility for the new magnet program, which is now being titled the Selma Academy of Medical Sciences.

Superintendent Dr. Austin Obasohan said all 31 SOD employees would retain their positions at different locations within the school system. He will meet with the school’s staff at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the closure. The board will vote at the May 14 meeting where SOD students will attend school in August.

“Really, we’re not closing any schools,” Obasohan said. “We’re just reshuffling them to make better use of our facilities. It’s good news for our school system.”

Obasohan said the board has two options on the table for relocating the 306 students. One, the students would attend a sixth-grade wing at C.H.A.T. Academy. Two, the students would attend whichever of the system’s eight elementary schools they live near.

The school system is set to lose 16 teacher units next year due to a decrease in enrollment. While cutbacks will be necessary, Obasohan said SOD teachers would be no more or less likely to lose a job than any other teachers within the system.

“The decision whether or not a teacher will be laid off has nothing to do with this move,” he said.

The reason for the move is simple, Obasohan said. SOD, located at 400 Washington St., is a central location with potential for expansion, even though renovations will be required. Obasohan said this makes the facility the ideal place for the magnet program, which is slated to open in August.

“SOD is the only school, and the best fit for this program,” he said. “We are talking right now with people about renovations.”

Beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, the Selma Academy of Medical Sciences would house about 225 students grades kindergarten-through-eighth. If successful, the program would expand to include high school students.

Board member Dr. Ann Fitts said no decision was made on where to house the SOD students next year. She said discussions have been in the preliminary stage.

“We haven’t made any other decisions,” she said. “It’s just speculation, and I don’t like to do that.”

Board member Benjamin Givan said the plans for the magnet program are vague, and he definitely supports the program. He would just like more details.

“I’d like to see some roundtable discussion on it,” Givan said.

Selma City Council president Dr. Geraldine Allen and councilwoman Dr. Monica Newton are working with the school system to develop a curriculum that emphasizes math and science.

Givan said it might take longer than a few months to flesh out the curriculum, hire qualified teachers and bring the facility up to code.

“I’m not sure whether we’re going to have it ready,” he said. “But I definitely support the program.”