Until Jefferson County invited the federal court to intervene, little was said about what impact Gardendale’s exit would have on the remaining schools in Jefferson County in terms of what effect it may have on the 1971 desegregation order governing the county school system.
With desegregation requirements in mind, I thought it might be helpful to see Jefferson County’s schools on a map, complete with some descriptive characteristics about student population, grade configuration, and even a taste of the ACT Aspire scores from last spring.
But first, a little history.
Since then, a whole lot of papers have been filed with the federal court (more on that in a moment), giving us a number of descriptive statistics about Jefferson County schools, including enrollment, capacity of buildings, and racial makeup of students.
Maps are always better than PDF tables to better visualize enrollment and location of Jefferson County’s 56 schools. (NOTE: Mount Olive Elementary is incorrectly identified as a proposed Gardendale City school. It is not within the city limits and will not become a part of the new system. The map will be corrected asap. Apologies. 8:45 a.m.)
On the map, each school is represented by a marker that corresponds to a grade configuration. Click on the marker for more information about that school.
The color key is as follows:
Red – K-5 elementary school
White – K-2 elementary school
Purple – K-8, 3-5, or K-6 school
Orange – 6-8 school
Green – 6-12 or 9-12 school
Blue – Burkett Center for multi-handicapped students
Yellow – Schools proposed to become part of Gardendale City Schools
Jefferson County superintendent Dr. Craig Pouncey continues to state he believes Gardendale’s board should pay enough money for Gardendale High School (GHS) to allow Jefferson County to build a new high school to serve the students left behind when Gardendale exits. According to Alabama Media Group’s Madison Underwood, at a community meeting to discuss the status of the split, Pouncey stated a comparable facility would cost $30 million and would be built for 7th through 12th graders. He gave no indication of where a new school would be built.
GHS was built in 2010 for somewhere between $46 and $55 million (depending on whom you ask).
When breaking away from a county school district, Alabama law only requires city school districts to pay for school buildings when debt remains. No debt remains on GHS, as it was built and paid for with proceeds from bonds pledged against Jefferson County’s 1-cent sales tax in 2004.
Initially, Jefferson County had asked Gardendale to pay $33 million for GHS. Gardendale balked. That’s when Bice was asked to assist.
In a preliminary decision issued February 6, Bice reasoned Gardendale should pay Jefferson County $8 million for Gardendale High School.
After allowing both sides to submit comments, in his February 20 final decision, Bice lowered the cost of GHS to zero.
Bice issued an amended final decision on March 2 to remove his comments in the February 20 decision that were critical of the two sides’ inability to reach an agreement. The final price for GHS remained $0.
On March 12, Jefferson County attorneys invited the federal court to intervene “if and as appropriate to ensure that the formation and proposed operation of the Gardendale Board of Education does not result in a denial of equal educational opportunity to any student, adversely affect the ability of the County Board to provide such opportunities to its students, or impede the progress of the County district as a whole toward attainment of unitary status.”
Gardendale filed suit in circuit court, asking a Jefferson County judge to order the county board”to relinquish control of the public schools within the Gardendale school district” in an effort to begin operations on July 1.
In a court hearing in late March, Haikala cautioned that state court action by Gardendale’s attorneys could hold up the separation, making a July 1 date highly improbable. Gardendale agreed to withdraw their action from state court, but it is still unclear whether they will be able to begin operating July 1.
On March 27, the parties submitted a joint status report to the court, outlining those next steps.
A telephone conference was held the same day, and Haikala agreed to and ordered the following:
(1) on or before March 31, 2015, Gardendale will circulate to all parties its proposal(s) regarding a plan of separation and federal constitutional desegregation obligations;
(2) on or before April 16, 2015, the plaintiff parties will respond to Gardendale’s submission and may request additional documentation or information;
(3) on or before April 23, 2015, Gardendale will respond to any requests for additional information from the plaintiff parties;
(4) on or before May 4, 2015, the parties will meet to discuss the information exchanged and to address any concerns related to the parties’ compliance with the September 8, 1971 Singleton order.
So stay tuned.