Teachers and parents weigh in on new Jacksonville school
by Laura Gaddy
Sep 13, 2013 | 4147 views |  0 comments | 68 68 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville City School Board and about 40 people gathered inside the high school cafeteria Thursday evening to talk about where the next city school should be built.

The board has already identified two potential sites to build the new school and plans on spending roughly $11 million to do it. Whether it will be a middle school or an elementary school or some combination of the two has yet to be determined.

About a dozen people, including parents, teachers and other Jacksonville residents, stood one at a time to talk about which site ought to hold the school.

“I think there are people on both sides of the issue that have very valid points,” said Jacksonville schools Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell.

In addition to parents, teachers and residents, city officials, including Mayor Johnny Smith and Police Chief Tommy Thompson, were also at the meeting.

The first site the board is considering for the new school is the existing Kitty Stone Elementary School campus. It is located about three blocks west of Alabama 21 and it was once part of Jacksonville State University's campus.

The second potential school site identified by the board is on 45 acres of city-owned land across the street from Jacksonville High School.

Of the people who spoke, about half said they want the school board to built the school at the Kitty Stone campus, others saying they’d like the school to be built across from the high school.

A few also said they think the school should consider other options. One mentioned that the school and the city should consider a land swap with private property owners.

“We’re certainly open to other suggestions,” Campbell said referring to school sites.

The school system selected the Kitty Stone campus and the city property after reviewing the feasibility of building the new school at several other locations. They included the Eastwood School and the old mill property, but those sites were not suitable for the school’s needs, officials said.

People who want the school to stay in place said they think moving the school might increase commutes to and from school. They said that building the new school near the high school could create traffic problems. They also worried that it might be dangerous to have all the city’s students — pre-K through 12 — in one place in case of a catastrophic disaster, such as a tornado.

Some also said that building the new school by the high school could drive down property values in the north end of town because more people would move southward to be near the schools.

“I would like the ultimate decision to take into consideration where we expect the city to be in twenty, thirty years,” said David Dempsey, who was there with his wife, Heidi Dempsey. “I’d like to see a lot of forethought.”

Those who want to see the school built on the city-owned property — three of whom included elementary school teachers — said they think the school system could build a safer building for students in the southern part of town. They said the Kitty Stone campus is too open to be secure for students, that students have to walk outside to get to safe places during tornado drills and that their classrooms are too small.

They also said that they don’t want students to have to learn in the classroom trailers that would house students for a year if a new building is built on the Kitty Stone campus.

“I feel like I do lack safety,” said Kelli Real, a Kitty Stone teacher and the parent of a Kitty Stone student. “We need a new building, we really do.”

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

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