By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
FULTONDALE — Several dozen parents and students turned out Saturday to hear how Fultondale High School will handle the transition for its new sixth grade students.
Principal Dr. Stephanie Robinson heard many questions that ran the gamut, from whether programs would be available for gifted students to how bus routes would be altered. But most inquiries had a central theme: how they younger children would interact, or not, with the current student body in grades 7-12.
Robinson emphasized that the sixth grade would have as little to do with the older students as possible; they would have different class-change schedules, lunch periods, and even pickup and drop-off locations.
The four sixth-grade classes will be separated from the seventh- and eighth-grade rooms that occupy the bottom floor of the main building; ninth through 12th grades remain on the top floor. The sixth grade will also have separate gym classes.
Robinson said that the decision to move the sixth grade came rather quickly, after new Jefferson County Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin visited both schools a few weeks ago to see the overcrowding situation first-hand.
"He asked me to come up with a plan in two weeks," Robinson said. "We are moving people around all over the place to make this work."
At the board meeting, Nowlin said that this move was to get the Fultondale schools through for the next two to three years, at which time some sort of capital improvements would have to be made.
"I haven't been told if they are planning to build a middle school, but capital improvements will have to be made," Robinson told parents. "A lot has to do with whether Gardendale pulls out and forms its own system. Our city grew 16 percent in the last year alone. They've got to build to plan for our own internal growth that we're experiencing. They [the system] have not told me if it will be a middle or high school; it does not matter to me which."
Among those attending were Shanna and Todd Fowler, whose son Bryson will enter the sixth grade this year.
"There's some apprehensive thoughts that we had, but I think she [Robinson] has some really good ideas on how to keep them segregated. "We have a child going into eighth grade here as well, and he definitely doesn't want to see his little brother," Shanna Fowler joked. "I think it's going to go in the right direction, but it's going to take some time and the cooperation of the parents."
The meeting was set up after the Jefferson County Board of Education voted last Tuesday to move the sixth grade classes to the high school from Fultondale Elementary, which suffers from severe overcrowding. Four classes with roughly 100 students are expected to make the move beginning in August.