North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

June 27, 2013

Our Views: A promise made to Fultondale schools

North Jefferson News

AN NJN EDITORIAL — On Saturday, parents of sixth-grade students found out many of the details of a big change in their lives, and the lives of their children.

Last week, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to move sixth grade classes from Fultondale Elementary School — which has suffered from severe overcrowding almost since it opened — to Fultondale High School.

To those without children of that age, such a move may not seem like a big deal. But ask parents and educators and they’ll tell you how big it is. There’s a world of difference between sixth graders and high school seniors, just as there is a big difference between sixth graders and kindergartners. Nevertheless, putting sixth graders and seniors in the same school every day presents many challenges.

Thankfully, Dr. Stephanie Robinson and her staff have a plan in place to handle the transition. They have segregated the young students in a section of the FHS complex, where they will have their own class schedule, plus their own lunch breaks and gym classes.

But this is all just a stopgap plan, by the admission of everyone involved. Fultondale is the fastest-growing city in the Birmingham metro area, and the schools are straining to hold all the children. Moreover, Fultondale High’s physical plant is aging, and showing many signs of wear and tear that results from half a century of heavy use.

In comments made when the school board approved this plan, Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin said that the system would have to look at capital improvements “in two or three years.”

Dr. Robinson took note of those words.

Parents and teachers in Wildcat country often mention how neighboring schools have seen sparkling new campuses built, while their building is held together with baling wire. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, the system planned to close FHS and split the student body between new schools at Gardendale and Center Point — a notion that seems foolhardy now, given Fultondale’s rapid growth.

We know that a lot of things can and will happen in the next two or three years, including Gardendale’s possible breakaway from the system. But nevertheless, we will remember Nowlin’s statement as the student population rises in the Fultondale feeder system.