In fact, nothing of the sort happened.
The city’s Board of Education voted Tuesday night to replace aging Kitty Stone Elementary School with a new school in a different location. Despite warnings by some Jacksonville residents — “the family businesses on the square are going to suffer (if the school is moved), and I’m going to miss them,” one resident wrote last week in a letter to the editor in The Star — the city today faces opportunity, not demise.
That opportunity is the city’s children. They already are fortunate to attend one of the best public elementary schools in Calhoun County, if not the state. Now exists the opportunity to set Jacksonville’s youngest school children up for the next generation, students yet unborn who deserve to be educated in the best way the city and its taxpayers can manage. Undoubtedly, that includes a facility upgrade to keep up with the changing technology of the 21st century.
Could that have happened at a renovated Kitty Stone Elementary School? Possibly, though we are inclined to believe the board — which faced a choice lathered in as much emotion as it did pertinent facts — did not err by choosing to build on George Douthit Drive near Jacksonville High School.
“What I really felt I needed to remind myself to do as a board member is to take emotion out of the equation, and to step back and make sure I’m making my decision based on the best interest of the students,” Board President Mike Poe said. “Each time I did that, it led me to the decision that we ended up making here tonight.”
By any estimation, Kitty Stone is a public institution in a college town with a historic and strong belief in education. The school, named for longtime Jacksonville educator Katharine Stone, wife of former Jacksonville State University President Ernest Stone, owns a reputation as fine as any school in the county. Its civic importance is understandible.
Other Alabama cities should be jealous of Kitty Stone Elementary School.
Nevertheless, our advice is for those who disagreed with the board’s decision to join hands with those in favor of the move and, in time, concentrate on the future for Jacksonville’s elementary students. If Jacksonville High is any indication, the city’s youngest students will soon be educated in a top-notch, modern facility that will meet their needs as well as those of their teachers.
That doesn’t lessen concerns about traffic congestion or construction costs. Those are real issues. But at the end of the day, the board isn’t charged with helping develop the city square or preserving a historic property. The board’s job, to mimic Poe’s words, is to do what’s best for the students.
Tuesday night, Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell said that “(I)t’s a tremendous responsibility that we have.”
He’s right. It’s a responsibility we expect Jacksonville will handle well.