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ICYMI: Anniston City Councilwoman Millie Harris has spoken the truth.
The locomotive of progress that’s carrying the closure of Anniston Middle School forward is running slow, as if it’s low on fueI. It needs a push from someone willing to say what’s needed.
That someone is Harris.
Recall the councilwoman’s words last Friday following a joint meeting of the City Council and Board of Education: “Here’s something that everyone needs to know. We have a window of opportunity with this retail situation, and if we drag it out too long, it’s going to go away and it’s going to be another lost opportunity for Anniston. Time is of the essence.”
We mention Harris’ comments a second time this week because (a.) she’s right and (b.) wasted time can’t be reclaimed. In May, the board wisely voted to close Anniston Middle, which sits on property valuable to developers who see the union of three major roadways — the parkway, Alabama 21 and U.S. 431 — as a place where cash registers could ring.
Since that May vote, nothing has substantially advanced the process.
Closing Anniston Middle isn’t simply a fix for the system’s numbers problem, which is severe. Yes, Anniston has too few students to warrant five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. Consolidation is a must. There is no logic — none — that warrants a system with fewer than 3,000 students operating seven campuses.
But the complete picture features Calhoun County with a completed Veterans Memorial Parkway, a redeveloped McClellan and ample opportunities for the McClellan Development Authority, the City Council and the county’s Economic Development Council to bring in new industries, jobs and retail opportunities. Those developments will benefit all of Calhoun County, not only Anniston.
That picture also includes a public school system in Anniston that can concentrate on academic improvement instead of worrying how to fiscally support campuses it does not need -- and won’t, given the system’s dwindling student population.
History tells us that a parade of politicians and school boards has failed to take Anniston’s schools down the correct path in regard to Anniston Middle and its unpopular location on Alabama 21. Anniston has toyed with its middle-school problem for more than two decades, picking around it like a scab on a skinned knee. Political cowardice and weak leadership have retained the unpleasant status quo.
The completed parkway is scheduled to open in 2015. Now, not next month, not next year, is the time to make concrete decisions about closing Anniston Middle, consolidating the school system and developing that valuable property.
Harris’ spoken truth is unmistakable.