Jacksonville residents at meeting want elementary school to stay put
by Laura Gaddy
Sep 20, 2013 | 2172 views |  0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Eighteen people sat in folding chairs at the restored Jacksonville train depot Thursday and talked about the possibility of bringing new life to another historic property — Kitty Stone Elementary School.

The old campus is one of two sites that the Jacksonville school board has identified as a potential location for the system’s next school. The other site is a city-owned piece of land across from Jacksonville High School, south of the city’s center.

The meeting was open to people with a variety of opinions but each of the residents who showed up and spoke Thursday had the same point of view. They said Kitty Stone Elementary School should stay in place and be restored or rebuilt on site.

“We love that there is a square, we love that our children’s school is a historic building with mature landscaping,” said Bryce Lafferty, who also said he wants the school to be built on the Kitty Stone campus. “I would love to be a part of a community that values its history.”

The meeting was hosted by a committee of Alabama Communities of Excellence, a nonprofit with a local presence, which exists to help communities plan for growth. The committee leader, Susan Di Biase, has said she favors keeping the elementary school in place.

Di Biase was not able to attend the meeting; longtime Jacksonville resident Sherry Blanton moderated it in her absence.

In addition to committee members, parents and residents with no children in Jacksonville public schools, local officials such as Jacksonville School Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell, school board members David Glass and Mike Poe and Jacksonville City Council President Mark Jones attended.

Campbell and Poe responded to residents who had questions. Campbell said the school board has met with architects, but has not selected one and added that the board is still in the very early stages of the planning process.

“No final decisions have been made but your input is very valuable,” Campbell said.

Poe said the school system plans to spend about $11 million on the project. He also said that the school system, and its appearance, can attract families seeking a new community to settle in.

“They’re looking at safety, security and, I hate to say it, newness,” Poe said.

Of the roughly half-dozen residents who spoke at the meeting, about four were parents with children who attend the schools. Two more residents, Danyel and Joseph Munster, are parents of an infant who may one day enter the system and they said where the new school is built matters to them.

“How excellent is it that Jacksonville has the opportunity to restore Kitty Stone?” Danyel Munster said. “As a parent I would really enjoy seeing my son go to a school where the city values its history.”

The Thursday meeting was not the first about school siting in Jacksonville and it likely won’t be the last. Organizers of the event asked residents to consider participating in future meetings and Jacksonville school officials said they plan to host at least one more public meeting on the topic.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.

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