Leading up to the decision, the community had been in quite an uproar about the possibility of closing the center, which has been a staple for many parents and children for decades.
At the first mention of a possible closing, Decatur resident Russell Brooks took to social media and created a Twitter account (@SaveFernbank) to help garner support for the institution.
“I have a son in the second grade in DeKalb County schools and he wants to be an astronomer,” said Brooks. “So the past couple of weeks he’s been reading books, and to commemorate the end of the school year we caught the planetarium show [May 24] and went to the observatory.”
It was then Brooks learned of the plans through a flier that was distributed to patrons. He took quick action soon after.
“I went through DeKalb elementary school myself 25 years ago and I remember it [Fernbank Science Center] as being a big part of growing up,” he said. “We wanted to make sure people were aware of it and knew what they could do to save Fernbank.
The possibility of closing the science center was just one on a long list of possible budget options as the school system looked to close a $73 million budget gap. The deficit was mostly caused by a decline in property values, increase in healthcare costs and an increase in expenditures for fuel and utilities.
At the May 30 public budget hearing, Chief Financial Officer Michael J. Perrone said the total tentative budget was just a little more than $1.1 billion, which was subject to change.
“To balance the budget we had a number of items that we proposed to the board to look at,” said Perrone. “And none of them were good choices. But we will come to a conclusion to balance this budget.”
Also during the meeting, many spoke out with varying concerns to the school board members. A consensus among the concerned residents was the need for a balance to be spread out across the board.
There were several who, while they touted the good the Fernbank Science Center has brought DeKalb, felt that if it came down to that versus other cuts — there should be no hesitation to cut the science center.
The final vote will be held at the June 11 school board meeting.