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Huntsville City Schools Set To Acquire Land For New North Huntsville Schools

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Superintendent Casey Wardynski says, "Today is kind of an important day, because this week, we're going to take ownership of the land on which we're going to build our new junior high and high school."

The area of land they're talking about is along Pulaski Pike between Winchester and Stringfield.  The parcel of land is basically a field and doesn't have much of an identity at all.  That is what Huntsville City Schools is trying to change.

They hope dropping a new building on the lot and giving the schools that occupy it distinct names will accomplish that.

Right now, they're leaning toward naming them after astronauts Mae Jemison and Ronald McNair, though they're still talking those names over with the community, like the plans themselves. They've already made some adjustments.

School Board President Laurie McCaulley says, "It's costing an additional million dollars to make sure those two facilities are separate, because the parents insisted on the junior high and high school not being connected."

Though Wardynski explains the facilities will still share this same space to save cost, "About 25-percent of the cost is the utilities - the air conditioning, the heating, the services.  So they'll share that, but the student bodies will not mix."

For now this field has few signs of life, but it'll bustle once the schools open.

Wardynski notes, "The new junior high will be built for about six- to seven-hundred students.  The new senior high will be built for eleven-hundred to thirteen-hundred students."

It's an ambitious plan, but now they've got the land.  Though, of course, there's an academic component to the challenge.

The new schools will replace Ed White Middle, Davis Hills Middle, and Johnson High.

The Alabama Accountability Act identified all three of those schools as failing, and the superintendent says it's not the only problem with them, "Johnson was originally laid out to support about 2,300 students.  Today it's got about five- to six-hundred in it. If we had been able to fully support all of the transfers requested this year under the Accountability Act and majority-minority, it would have far fewer."

These new schools will actually serve all of the students zoned for them - according to the superintendent, but first the schools that pop up will need to shed their failing status.

They may start on a clean slate of land, but they won't start with a clean slate themselves.

School board leaders say they will have the accumulated data of all the students who attend the new schools and their status will be determined from that.

But they plan on turning around achievement long before they finish construction.

Wardynski promises, "The students will have accumulated a record of success that will earn the new school a grade that is much different than the one that Johnson has today."