LaFayette, Valley mayors react to school board selecting Valley for new high school

Published 1:44 pm Thursday, October 27, 2022

LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines and Valley Mayor Leonard Riley both expressed their viewpoints on the Chambers County School District’s decision to select Valley as the proposed location for the new consolidated high school. This comes after the CCSD school board meeting on Tuesday, in which the recommendation was approved in a 4-2 split vote. The location will still need to be approved by the Department of Justice before any further action is taken.

Vines noted his disappointment in the decision and stood by his stance that LaFayette would be a better location for the new high school.

“I would be lying if I said that I was not upset because I truly am,” Vines said. “I believe that [LaFayette’s] location was the better location. We have more acreage, the location is close to the board of education building and our city is already on central time so there would not be any problems there.”

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Vines also expressed his concern about the Valley location not being centrally located in the county as required by the Department of Justice.

“The DOJ said that the new school would have to been centrally located and LaFayette is the center of the county,” Vines said. “Not only do our kids have to take a bus every morning to Valley, but how is it located in the center of the county?”

Additionally, when the high schools are consolidated, LaFayette High School will be permanently closed down. Vines noted how much of an impact that the school’s closure will have on the community.

“The high school has always been a big part of our community and losing that is going to hurt us,” Vines said. “We have a lot of sporting events like football at the school, and losing that is tough. Also, people who would normally come here to watch the games are now going to take their business over there, so it is going to impact our small businesses here.”

Despite his frustration with the decision, Vines said that he would continue to work with and support the school district for the good of the students.

“At the end of the day, it isn’t about either one of the cities; it is about the kids,” Vines said. “I’m not happy about the decision, but the city will continue to support the school district in whatever way we can. We are going to keep moving forward and doing the best that we can for our kids and our citizens.”

On the other hand, Valley Mayor Leonard Riley said that he was excited that his city was picked for the new location and noted how he believed it was the most logical choice.

“The school board made the right decision,” Riley said. “Our location already has roads, water, power and cable ready to go for the new school. Plus, when you look at the population, it makes more sense to bus 20% of the county to school in Valley than it would to bus 80% of the county to school in LaFayette.”

Riley also commented on the impact that the school’s location would have on minority students throughout the county. Approximately 69% of LaFayette residents are Black compared to about 37% of Valley residents, but the city of Valley has about four times as many citizens. 

“When you look at it, [Valley] has twice as many minority students as LaFayette, so minorities are going to come out better on this than if they put the school in LaFayette because a lot less of them are going to have to be bussed,” Riley said. 

With the board’s decision to put the school in Valley, it will reopen the discussion about what time zone the high school will be in. Currently, the Chambers County School District recognizes Central time, however the city of Valley operates on Eastern time. Riley said that if needed, he would make sure that the city transitioned to Central time.

“Valley will change to a central time zone if that is what needs to happen,” Riley said. “The decision to put the school over here is going to greatly benefit Valley, and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the process goes smoothly.”