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BoE puts hold on unpopular tree cutting project
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Before it was ultimately tabled, the proposed tree clearing project at Lanier Primary became a hot topic of debate at Thursday’s school board meeting.

Dr. Patti Newman, principal of LPS and gifted education teacher Iris Sims both spoke against the project, and board members Judy Crosby and Mary Warnell agreed the tree cutting needed to be tabled.

Warnell said "no amount of money is worth the taking away of the outdoor classroom."

She said she has been opposed to the project from the beginning and remains so, feeling it is in the best interest of the students and everyone to leave the acres intact until growth in the area demands that the trees be cleared.

"It’s not in the five to 10 year plan to enlarge Lanier or build a new elementary school, and I haven’t yet found a rational reason for doing this." Warnell said.

She proposed instead to clear the undergrowth, leave "the stately trees intact," and rename the nature trail in District 2 Representative Billy Mock’s honor.

Mock proposed the clearing last month, which led to a bid opening before Thursday’s meeting. Two Lane Construction Company out of Claxton reportedly was the top bidder, promising $23,592 for the Bryan County Board of Education upon completion of the project.

Warnell’s pleas for the tabling of the project and reasons the project should not go forward received a "shut-up" from Mock, who later apologized for his outburst.

Mock said the area is "dangerous to children playing near the jungle-like woods that need to be made safer for the students," and said snakes in the area were a concern to him.

Newman said that in a rural area snakes are to be expected and that the clearing of trees was likely to drive more snakes into the immediate school area.

Newman spoke of a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives entitled No Child Left Inside, a grassroots movement for environmental education, and said "we have in our own backyard what other systems have to take buses to see."

In addition to the nature trail considered the children’s outdoor classroom that would be destroyed with the land clearing, the question of what to do with the land after clearing was a concern voiced by many, including BoE member Joe Pecenka.

"If the area is seeded with grass," said Newman "it will be a lot of extra grass to cut, adding the burden of additional expense and employee’s time."

Sims said she did not understand the sudden urgent need to clear the trees as they establish and frame the beauty of the campus, adding to the charm and distinctiveness of the school, and provide the children a natural learning environment that they enjoy.

Sims asked that the board reconsider carefully before deciding to finalize the project as did Newman, Warnell and Representative Judy Crosby.

There was a vast difference in the bids, including some that would result in the BOE paying the bidder up to $21,000 upon completion of the project.

Due to the discrepancies in cost or net profit, Mock suggested the tabling of the project for the time being although the bids "came out better than expected."

He said "the project is a big undertaking and we have to be careful."

The Board agreed to table the project for further study and consideration.

In other business, Superintendent Sallie Brewer said Bryan County is requesting a 15 percent increase in its System Improvement Plan to aid with teacher retention, in addition to various improvement requests for extracurricular facilities, programs and staff at both county high schools and middle schools.

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