LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. – Members of the Lawrence County community gathered Thursday night to discuss their opposition to a plan to shut down R.A. Hubbard High.
Lawrence County School System Superintendent Dr. Jon Bret Smith presented the plan to the school board at a meeting on November 1. In the presentation, Smith alleges that declining enrollment at the 1A school is to blame for the needed closure.
According to Smith’s presentation, the student population at R.A. Hubbard has decreased from 323 students in 2009 to just 147 students in 2021. Smith says this decline in enrollment not only leads to less opportunities for students but will increase costs for the school district.
In the last year, per student costs have gone up by nearly $2,100 at R.A. Hubbard. According to district data, the school system is now spending $18,030/student at R.A. Hubbard. That’s by far the most spent at any Lawrence County School.
Smith’s proposal to close R.A. Hubbard would send the 147 students at the school to two separate schools. Students who live in the previous Hazelwood High School zone would go to Hatton High School. Students who live in the previous R.A. Hubbard High School Zone would go to East Lawrence Middle and High Schools.
Students at Hazelwood Elementary School would not be impacted.
Smith says eliminating R.A. Hubbard makes more sense than rezoning students because the costs to staff and maintain three high schools are considerably higher than the costs to staff and maintain two high schools.
But members of the Lawrence County NAACP and the Committee of Concerned Citizens gathered Thursday night to voice their disapproval of the plan. Speakers at the meeting said it would be unfair to current R.A. Hubbard students for them to have to move schools.
One of the most commonly raised concerns was that students wouldn’t be able to participate in extracurricular activities like football or band, because they wouldn’t have access to transportation across the county. Speakers said this could hurt the students’ self-esteem. One speaker also expressed concern that Black students wouldn’t be selected for things like cheerleading squads and homecoming court at predominantly white schools.
Community members also questioned why R.A. Hubbard would be closed when it has a high success rate. According to one speaker, the school has graduated 100% of its senior classes for the past three years. Many people said they didn’t believe the students would get a better education at either of the schools they would be transferred to.
Lawrence County NAACP President J.E Turnbore questioned why it has to be R.A. Hubbard that would close in order to comply with the federal desegregation order.
“If he [Smith] wants to desegregate Hatton, let him bring some of the white students from Hatton down to R.A. Hubbard,” Turnbore said.
Community members have until December 6 to submit comments on the proposal. The school board plans to vote on the issue at its December 6 meeting. If the plan passes, it will still have to be approved by a federal judge.