Madison County Board of Education fails to pass capital plan including Monrovia High School

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- Thursday night, the Madison County Board of Education failed to pass a capital plan that included a new Monrovia High School.

An action item for the approval of a capital plan that included a new high school in the Monrovia community, as well as added security measures for all of the district's schools was on the agenda for the meeting. After discussion from the board and public comments from the community, no motions were made for the approval of the plan and it failed to get a vote. As it stands, the school district is still committed to the 2013 plan established prior to Superintendent Matt Massey taking office.

Four months ago, Massey first presented his vision for a new capital plan for the district that did not include a new Monrovia High. He long argued that the district's allocated BRAC funds could be put to a more inclusive use, but never garnered board support.

Many in favor of the new school argued that Sparkman High is overcrowded and the board is contractually obligated to the Madison County Commission to build the new school. The commission helped the district borrow the two-to-one BRAC money in a May 2013 funding agreement between the two parties, which featured a five-year capital plan that included the $46 million Monrovia High School.

Since taking office, Massey's capital plan evolved, but for the first time Thursday his five-year plan for the district included the new school. The 12-item plan also included roughly seven percent of the $43.1 million in remaining BRAC funds to go toward additional security measures for all of the system's schools.

"Of the $43.1 million left in the BRAC funds that we can use, it won't build everything that we need or that community even expects for $43.1 million," said Massey. "So for $42.8 million it won't make that much difference, but that $42.8, that diversion of the $300,000 around the district and 27 of our other campuses could make a difference in a life or death type situation."

The safety measures included security cameras, key cards and buzzer/intercom systems for the schools.

Madison County School Board President Jeff Anderson questioned if the reallocation of funds would be considered a breach of the board's contract with the county commission. School officials planned to look into it.

The four funded items of Massey's proposed plan included:

  • $1.2 million to replace the mechanical system at Hazel Green High School
  • $150,000 for a new server room for computer services
  • $330,000 for security measures for all Madison County schools
  • $46 million for a new 1,600 student Monrovia High School

The system's BRAC funds are set to expire in 36 months with construction on new school expected to be "substantially underway" by that time. The district is looking to the state for clarification on the expectation.

Meanwhile, Massey said construction on Monrovia High will not begin until new zone lines are drawn, so there is no confusion about who will get to go to the new school and who will stay at Sparkman High.

"It's important for both schools to have the same demographics and the same socioeconomic make-up."

The Department of Justice will be involved in the process of drawing the zone lines. A DOJ attorney will work with an 11 person committee to help determine the new lines. Massey said construction will begin once the lines are established and communicated to the public.

"So you're hoping that the community will beg us not to build the school after they see the zone lines," responded Anderson.

"No, I want to be transparent through the process, the process of who's going to go where is going to be determined up front," said Massey. "I don't think that's an unfair thing to do."

Anderson argued the delay is only hurting the district's chances of utilizing the BRAC funds.

"I don't understand why we're delaying the construction of the school, when our capital plan says that it's there, the funding is there and there's a time limit on the money."

"The capital plan was adopted before the funding agreement, which was May 3, 2013," said Massey. "I took office January 1, 2015. To blame me for delaying this school is not a very fair thing when this thing has been on the capital plan for over a year and a half. Why did it take so long to get it started? This should never have been even on the table. This should have been done before. The delay of a year and a half, that wasn't me."

The next work session is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. May 4 at the Central Office.