Anniston Board of Education looks at next steps in junior high process
by Paige Rentz
May 30, 2013 | 3909 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Anniston Board of Education is ready to get down to specifics as members plan a new junior high school.

After meeting with the City Council about funding possibilities on Tuesday, the Board of Education convened Thursday to define its next steps in the reorganization process. Earlier this month the board voted to close Anniston Middle School and convert Cobb Elementary School into a junior high for seventh- and eighth-graders. Elementary students, including sixth- graders, will be divided among the four remaining elementary schools.

Board member Mary Klinefelter said she felt the next step was for the architect to fine-tune the plans for the new Cobb Junior High School.

“I think in doing that,” she said, “we need input from the principals and faculty and all the administration to make sure we design this building in a practical way that includes the things that we need and the structure will be laid out in the way that we want it.”

Board member Bill Robison agreed. He said the Board of Education needed concrete information to work with and concrete steps to check off so that progress on the reorganization stays on track.

Superintendent Joan Frazier said she will be coordinating a meeting with Montgomery-based McKee and Associates, the district’s architectural firm, as soon as possible.

The district’s architect provided preliminary drawings and cost estimates for the project about six to eight months ago and provided updated cost estimates at the board’s April 27 work session, Frazier said. Now, district officials must begin to determine what specifically will go into the building and how it will be situated.

“We’re going from preliminary to the nitty-gritty,” she said.

Robison presented his fellow board members with a model checklist of steps that would enable the board to move ahead steadily on the reorganization. These include:

- obtaining the best and most recent cost estimates for the project

- getting the best available estimates on debt service payments for the cost of the project

- deciding how much of the debt service the district can commit to paying each year and how much the city will pay (in addition to the schools’ ad valorem tax)

- verifying that the debt service paid by the city will meet any required minimum compensation for transfer of the middle school property

- meeting with the Anniston City Council about the district’s need and the project’s timing and academic merits

- signing an agreement with the city of Anniston

Robison said following his suggested timeline or a similar one will help the members “find out if we’re going to go fishing or if we’re going to stay sitting on the bank cutting bait.”

In the meantime, Frazier has begun the process to make sure the plan can move forward in compliance with Lee vs. Macon, a decision in a desegregation lawsuit.

Frazier met Wednesday with attorney Burgin Kent to plan the district’s request for the federal courts to approve the reorganization plan.

In other business, the board:

== Approved a field trip to Six Flags over Georgia as an achievement reward for Anniston High School students who have met criteria including passing the graduation exam.

== Declared repairs to the cooling tower at Cobb Elementary School to be an emergency. Frazier said the repairs could take as long as seven to eight weeks.

== Discussed with Bruce Jameson of the Public Education Foundation of Anniston opportunities for funding of technology and career tech equipment and infrastructure.

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.
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