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Residents continue fight against school system outsourcing

By Jason A. Smith

jsmith@henryherald.com

McDONOUGH — School officials in Henry County may see the next chapter of an outsourcing debate unfold when the Board of Education gathers for a study session Wednesday at 4 p.m.

The issue is centered on whether Henry County Schools should contract custodial and landscaping services to an outside company.

Nichelle Wiggins of McDonough adamantly opposes the idea — and she’s not alone. She is one of nearly 300 people who attended a recent BOE meeting where residents blasted the privatization concept.

“I believe the school board should expect these protests to continue until they find other avenues,” she said.

Wiggins works as a teacher in Clayton County, and her six-year-old daughter is in kindergarten at Hickory Flat Elementary School. Wiggins said she supports county employees in their fight to avoid the unemployment line.

“I definitely hate to see over 300 people lose their jobs,” she said. “I live in Henry County, and I have a child in Henry County Schools. It’s going to affect her as well.”

Friday marked the deadline for the BOE to accept bids from contractors for custodial and landscaping services. The bid process includes a packet of information and a pre-bid meeting to allow school system staff to show contractors what they would be bidding on.

School system spokesman J.D. Hardin said although 24 contractors picked up packets for custodial work, only three submitted bids. Twenty-seven contractors obtained packets for landscaping services, but only four submitted bids before the deadline, he said.

Hardin said privatization of services will likely be addressed at the study session.

He said the outsourcing trend has been visible in other local jurisdictions in recent months. School officials in Carroll County recently approved a contractor for their custodial services, and the school board in Cherokee County recently issued a request for proposals from private companies for those duties.

Cobb County is also discussing whether to adopt a similar measure, Hardin said.

“We’re not alone in this process,” he said. “It just shows the nature of school system financing across the state, and that people are having to making these tough choices.”