Public speaks out about new Monrovia high school in Madison County

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT)– The question at hand for the Madison County Board of Education isn’t whether to build a new school in the Monrovia area. Rather, it’s who can attend the new school.

The board recently voted against Superintendent Matt Massey’s plan to designate the school to 11th and 12th graders, with 9th and 10th remaining at the current Sparkman High School.

Instead, board members asked for more public input.

At a work session Thursday, school district officials peeled back another layer.

Chief Operations Officer Kerry Wilkerson explained that there’s been an increase in construction costs. He said with those rising costs, there is no longer funding for a second gym, an auditorium, or outdoor athletic fields in the plans for the school.

“I don’t know how a 9-12 campus will work when they don’t have athletic facilities and we can’t provide them,” said Massey.

Board member Jeff Anderson suggested a possible taxing district, which could mean a possible tax increase to fund the deficiency. He told WHNT News 19 it was always known funding would be tight, but until Thursday he hadn’t learned exactly how tight.

Anderson said he still wants to try for a 9-12 school if it’s possible, because he said he knows his community and the school issue is all about opportunities.

Still, Massey questions the opportunities that can come from this school if it’s a 9-12.

“We cannot support two high-quality 9-12 schools,” Massey explained. “We can make it work. It will function. But the quality of that will go down.”

Public Input

There was an open portion of the meeting where the public could finally address the board about the plans, and those who signed up stayed until the end of the long evening to speak.

Savannah Bullard, a senior at Sparkman High School, said she’s been following the issue. She said Massey’s compromise “is one I can live with.”

She said an 11-12 school will come with some road blocks, but those are workable. Overall, she’d like to see the decisions made with students in mind: “Some people are only in this discussion because they’re afraid of their property values moving an inch, and I don’t think they belong. Because this is really about the students,” she said.

Opponents said now is the time to go for the 9-12 school while there’s a chance for it to work.

“I don’t want to see anybody deprived of any opportunities, but I also recognize that at some point you just have to make those hard decisions and get on with it,” explained Kerri Dyer. She said, “We will recover.”

Zoning concerns

Zoning committee members also had their chance to speak to the board Thursday. Many of whom explained they had worked very hard to come up with viable zoning options, and had the hearts and minds of the people affected by the zones in their own hearts when they were at work.

“I feel like our time should mean something,” said Larry Sevier. “We came up with a good map.” Sevier added the work was heart-wrenching, knowing some people would be left out of the zone for the new school.

Others argued the Superintendent bypassed their recommendation (seen in the tweet above) with his proposal to split the grades. They said they did what they were chartered to do by examining zoning options.

Superintendent Massey outlined his difficulties with the committee’s recommendation.

Massey believes it still allows for “huge” socio-economic separation, leaves Sparkman High School under-capacity, and creates geographical complications. He cited some areas where people less than a mile from the new school would be zoned for another, or where some would have to drive by Sparkman High School on their way to the new one.

So where do things stand now?

School board members tell us they are processing the information presented to them, in some cases for the first time. They are also working on finding ways to move forward, because the new school will still be built.

Superintendent Massey tells us more information will soon be presented, and this is not the last time the public will be able to speak about the issue.

At this point, it’s unclear when the new school will actually come to a vote, or what plan they would even be voting on.