Debate continues over proposed Monrovia High School at Madison County BOE work session

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - More than 250 people attended the Madison County Board of Education work session on Thursday.  The biggest draw on the agenda was once again the continued discussion of the system's capital plan and the future of a Monrovia High School.

Many of those in attendance for the three-and-a-half-hour long meeting wore "Stand for Sparkman" T-shirts.  A few of the new high school opponents even addressed the board.

"Diversity is our strength," said Sparkman High teacher Jennifer McKinney. "Why would you take away something that separates our kids from all the other kids in this state?"

Meanwhile, some supporters of a new Monrovia High told board members they promised the county commissioners to build it.

"As the area grows, there may be new needs, which may require additional capital or operating revenue," said Monrovia business owner Larry Frederick. "If that time comes, will you get the help that you need."

The money for the new school came about thanks to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) funding, but the district needed the Madison County Commission to help borrow the money. In the May 2013 funding agreement between the two parties, both the board and the county signed off on a five-year capital plan that included a Monrovia High.

While the debate raged on Thursday about the best way to use the BRAC funding throughout the district, all members agreed there isn't enough money.

"We're an underfunded county system," said school board president Jeff Anderson. "We don't have the extra money that the city systems have to support these big schools."

Anderson, whose district includes the Monrovia area, has long argued for a new high school.

New Superintendent Matt Massey first introduced a new capital plan minus a Monrovia high school when he took office in January. He wants to spread the $46 million throughout the district, with much of that money going to a $23 million performing arts center at Sparkman High School.

"This is about increasing the quality of education we can provide," said Massey. "This is our one chance to increase our quality and to take us to that level that those around us have."

No issues were brought to a vote Thursday. The next school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 17.

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