Shutting down Anniston’s last two elementary schools, Golden Springs and Randolph Park, and transferring their students to Anniston Middle School was a school board topic of discussion during a work session Tuesday afternoon.
Superintendent Dr. D. Ray Hill proposed the plan, which would put all elementary students under the same roof.
Under the proposal, which would require a board vote to be enacted, the middle school would house students in grades 1-7 and Anniston High School would accommodate students in grades 8-12.
Hill said the number of elementary students is on the rise and space has already been made once at Golden Springs Elementary to allow for the increased enrollment.
Hill said that both the middle school and the high school could handle the proposed consolidation and “still have some space to give” — although some walls would have to be moved around at the high school.
He said the enrollment at Randolph Park this year is 370 and at Golden Springs it’s 405.
If the consolidation plan comes to pass the two closed schools could be used by the school system for a number of different purposes, including receiving and maintenance, Hill said.
As economical and efficient as the plan might sound to some people, others could be expected to resist closure of their neighborhood schools. Golden Springs Elementary opened in 1962 and Randolph Park Elementary opened three years later. Both were touted as schools of the future, fully air conditioned — and windowless.
“I don’t think we are going to get around the political landslide that will be created,” Hill said, “Either way we go, somebody is not going to be happy.”
One of the factors facing school officials is maintenance of the aging buildings the school system owns.
“At some point, the question is, will some of these buildings last the next 10-15 years, I don’t think they will,” Hill said.
Hill said the two newest buildings in the school system are the middle school, opened in 1987, and Cobb Preparatory Academy, which originally opened as an elementary school in 1990.
The school system’s headquarters at the middle school would have to be relocated if consolidation is approved as the offices take up space that students would need.
School board president Robert Houston echoed Hill’s comments about the aging buildings in the school system’s portfolio.
“We can talk about this until the cows jump over the moon, the fact of the matter is we are in a position where the useful life of most of our buildings is gone, no matter where you look,” Houston said.
“We’re spending tons of money just to maintain those, we really need to consolidate into these two buildings and we need to build another high school which would include the middle school,” Houston said.
The board also talked about improving athletic facilities by building a new athletic complex.
“We have to come out of the dark ages. We can't stay where we are, our children deserve so much more than they are getting,” Houston said.
Hill told the board that a new athletic complex that would include a regulation track, girls softball field, boys baseball field, soccer field, concessions, restrooms and parking according to an architect he spoke with would cost between $7 million and $8.5 million.
Hill said the complex could be located at several different properties the school system already owns.
When contacted by phone Tuesday night Anniston City Councilwoman Ciara Smith was in favor of the proposed consolidation.
“Consolidation is an excellent idea, I think it’s something that I know has been in the talks before but there’s never really been any action behind it so it is very exciting to hear that they are at least having that conversation now and figuring out ways to move that forward,” she said.
“I don’t have an opinion 100 percent of how the schools should necessarily be structured, my opinion wavers when it comes to the middle school — the middle school is so far away from the heart of Anniston,” Smith said.
“I would love to see that area more developed with retail spaces, restaurants, I just see that part of the city being developed in even greater ways,” she said.
“My opinion wavers a little bit, consolidation yes, I don’t know if moving everyone to the middle school is the right answer,” she said.