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Online Petitions Started To Save Fernbank Science Center

A DeKalb school board committee suggested pulling funding for the center to close a $73 million budget gap.

Supporters of in Druid Hills have started online petititons to save it from being closed because of budget cutting by the DeKalb County Board of Education.

It’s unclear who started the petitions, but many parents and supporters of the science center have been vocal on the Save Fernbank Science Center Facebook page and local blogs.

Read the Dekalb County Board of Education: Save Fernbank Science Center petition here.

The Save Fernbank Science Center! petition is available here.

DeKalb school board members are working to plug a $73 million gap in the system's budget, and a committee recommended Thursday an additional $17.5 million in cuts that includes closing the science center.

These recommendations came after a budget was tentatively approved on Tuesday that includes $44.5 million in cuts and layoffs but relied on a tax increase some board members oppose.

(Editor's note: The Fernbank Science Center is different from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, the place with the dinosaurs bones, and Fernbank Elementary School. Neither of those is closing.)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution polled eight of the nine board members about the 2-mill tax increase.

Tom Bowen, Nancy Jester, Don McChesney, Pam Speaks and Paul Womack oppose the tax increase. Eugene Walker, Jesse "Jay" Cunningham and Donna Edler are in support. Sarah Copelin-Wood could not be reached for comment.

The district spends about $4.7 million to operate the Fernbank Science Center and pay 56 full-time employees.

The center, which includes a museum and planetarium, offers hands-on education about animals and planets to about 160,000 school children and visitors each year.

School board Chairman Eugene Walker told the AJC he opposes closing the center.

"It's a great educational opportunity for students that are interested in science," he said.

A public hearing to talk about the additional cuts proposed by the budget commitee is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30, at 6pm at district headquarters, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain.

Laura Martin May 29, 2012 at 05:29 PM
50% of the bean-counters (AKA Administrators) in the Dekalb County School System should be fired. I'm sick of paying for the systems largesse (healthcare, fat retirement, legal fees for criminal endeavors), especially when the system perpetually put themselves FIRST and forget their priority should be LEARNING. We must clean house in the county government if we ever expect to rise up and re-claim our rightful place at the top of the state.
JuliaMcElroy May 29, 2012 at 09:20 PM
Is there any info on what would happen to the space if it was "closed"? Would the museum take it over? Instead of owning it, could Dekalb Schools rent it from the museum for field trips? I have never gotten a clear answer as to whether the end of Dekalb's ownership necessarily means the end of the programs that people love.
Jonathan Cribbs May 29, 2012 at 11:28 PM
The school board is considering shutting it down, so yes those programs would be gone. Whether the museum or some other entity takes it over it not up to them.

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