After more than an hour’s discussion during its work session Thursday, the board concluded that it did not have the three votes necessary to change its May decision to relocate the Anniston Middle School students to Cobb Elementary. The discussion was a carry-over from the board’s work session last month, in which board President Donna Ross expressed reservations about the plan and suggested the middle school students be moved to Anniston High School instead.
In May, the board voted unanimously to close the middle school so the city could use the property for possible retail development. The city expects the spot will be prime for business growth once the nearby parkway is completed and can bring in more motorists to the area. The board’s plan is to move the city’s seventh- and eighth-graders to Cobb and spread the sixth-graders among the four remaining elementary schools.
Board members William Hutchings, C.K. Huguley and Mary Klinefelter said they were not persuaded to change their minds on the issue.
Ross and board member Bill Robison said that they had changed their minds on the issue, arguing that the school system could save money by moving the students to the high school.
Robison said that, for example, if the students were moved to the high school, the system could have one school nurse there all day. If the students were moved to Cobb, however, the nurse would have to split her time between the high school and the other campus.
“Instead of spending money on brick and mortar, we’re saving money by doubling up on staff and then spending it on academics and programs,” Robison said, referring to the unadopted high school proposal.
Ross said if the students were moved to the high school, the board would have the opportunity to build a whole new state-of-the-art facility to house them — an opportunity it would not have at Cobb. Ross said the technology and educators already available at the high school could be used to provide better education for the middle school students. She added that the school system could save money, for example, by having just one fine arts program at the high school for all the students instead of one at the high school and one at Cobb.
Hutchings said that while he liked some of the things Ross suggested, he was not changing his mind, feeling the west side of Anniston, which has a significant number of low-income and black residents, needed a school to help with community development there. He also got into a brief altercation with Robison, claiming Robison had changed his mind on the issue due to the influence of five rich local white families. The families were not named.
Robison vehemently denied the accusation.
“We just want to provide the best education for the students of this city,” Robison said of himself and Ross.
Huguley said she will not change her vote at this time, arguing that not having the school in west Anniston would go against the city’s One City, One Vision strategic planning program.
“We’re going to pass up an opportunity of making this one city, one vision,” Huguley said, if the high school proposal were to be adopted.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.