Tuesday, May 27, 2014, Spanish Fort High School will host the last of a series of community meetings the Baldwin County School Board is having with citizens and parents. At issue is a school system that is having trouble keeping up with the growth of the county.
The problem is that many schools are already bursting at the seams, but there’s currently no funding to build new schools. To keep pace that funding will have to be found soon. The meeting is to inform citizens of the future needs of the school system and to get input on how those needs should be adressed.
In the fastest growing county in the state, Spanish Fort is one of the fastest growing areas. Schools are a big reason people move to the area, but schools there are already bursting at the seams. Rockwell Elementary will have 20 new classrooms at the opening of next school year, but they will immidiately be full. The High School has no room to expand and the students keep coming. It’s become a common problem throughout the county.
“Time frame is, we needed schools about three years ago. We’re gaining about 800 students a year right now. That’s roughly an elementary size school,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Alan Lee.
Baldwin County hasn’t built a new school since 2007 and likely won’t be able to until some tough decisions are made. School officials hope the input they’re getting from the series of community meetings will help them decide which direction to take and how soon. As it stands now, a penny tax voters chose to reinstate in 2012 will go away in two years. For that reason, the school system has no bonding capacity, which means they can’t get a loan. One way to address the problem would be to make that tax permanent.
“There’s got to be some source for the future if people want to build schools for their children and that’s why we’re going out into the community; to let people know what the facts are and let them make up their mind and if the voters decide they want better schools and they want more facilities for their children, then that’s a decision that they’re going to have to make at some point,” explained Lee.
Dr. Lee says the only other options right now would be an adjustment to the sales tax or property taxes. Most people in the community overwhelmingly support taking whatever measures are necessary.
“We got to get the money from somewhere. Aint nobody willing to do nothing else unless you want to get them to donate. If they donate that’s fine, but you’re just donating a penny…a penny off of there. Let it stay like it is,” said David Dixon.
“The property taxes are much less here, so the one cent tax would not mean much of anything to anybody,” added Jody Burke.
School officials want to hear from more of the public Monday night. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. at the Spanish Fort High School gym.
Although Spanish Fort Schools need adressing, school officials said that the area that needs the quickest attention is Gulf Shores where they already have a desperate need for a new high school and elementary school.