After parents showed up to protest the potential closing of their children’s elementary schools and the possibility that the system might build a new middle school on the grounds of the high school, Superintendent Joan Frazier declined to make a formal recommendation to the board on how to proceed.
The board had scheduled the Thursday work session with a regular meeting immediately following in order to make a decision on how to proceed with system reorganization.
The session attracted, however, a number of parents who complained about the proposal to build a middle school on the grounds of the high school, their comments echoing those made by parents during a series of board-sponsored meetings at neighborhood schools in March. Those forums were held so that school officials could let the public know what they were considering on the matter of school consolidation.
Tonya Fantroy, the parent of a high school and middle school student, Thursday presented the board with a letter expressing her and a number of parents’ disapproval of the proposal to build a new middle school on the high school campus. She is in the process of circulating a petition to parents about her concerns, she told the board members.
“There’s no way that they won’t come in contact with those classes,” Fantroy said. “I was told that, when my son was in ninth grade in the ninth-grade academy that he wouldn’t have any contact with the upperclassmen and he did,” Fantroy said. “I don’t feel like it’s in the best interest of our children to go to the high school.”
She did feel like the seventh- and eighth-graders should be moved from the current middle school — but not to the high school because there they could be bullied or exposed to teen pregnancy, she said.
“We’ll take our children out,” Fantroy said.
Kamika King, the parent of an honor student at the high school, was also concerned about the possibility of the younger students being bullied by the older students. The problem, King believed, was that there were already too many kids on the campus.
“I personally don’t want to give up on Anniston City Schools,” King said. “So, I think we need a better solution than to throw the seventh and eighth grade in the mix.”
Fantroy said there were other options, including moving the seventh- and eighth-graders to a renovated elementary school.
Board member William Hutchings pointed out that the any decision the board makes is going to upset someone.
“We’re going to listen to parents,” Hutchings said. “And I’m going to say it again, a decision has to be made.”
Hutchings said money would have to influence the decision as a matter of practicality and much of the money would have to come from the city of Anniston.
Robert Houston, a local businessman and former board member, asked the board members how they have analyzed the options.
“I know it’s about money,” Houston said. “But at the end of the day, we’ll lose another generation, another generation and another generation. For me it’s about kids.”
Another parent, Charles Woolf, said he was very concerned about what would happen if his children’s school, Constantine Elementary, were closed.
“I have been up and down with schools,” Woolf said. “My son has a developmental delay. But because of Constantine Elementary my son is five years old; he can add and subtract, count to 100. I’m talking about exceeding the state standards.”
Frazier told the parents at the meeting that although she had two or three scenarios for the board, she would not be making a recommendation that evening for the board’s consideration.
“This meeting has been very enlightening to me,” Frazier said. “I do not want to make a knee-jerk reaction.”
She said she wanted to meet with board members individually and find out what the consensus is before proceeding, because right now she felt she would be “shooting in the dark.”
Arthur Cottingham objected to the idea of waiting to make a decision.
“I don’t see any reason to put this off any further,” Cottingham said.
Board member Jim Klinefelter, though, said he would like to leave the decision to the new board members in November.
“I think it ought to be at least done by the new board; not by one where three of us are not going to come back,” Klinefelter said.
Some of the parents did not go along with that.
“Why would you guys want new people to come in and vote and they don’t know our feelings and they don’t know what’s going on?” Fantroy asked.
The board approved some personnel issues in the called meeting they had previously scheduled, but adjourned with no decision on reorganization.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.