Ad Spot

A new high school is past due

By Staff
Bob Francis, Chairman, Hartselle Development Board
Some in Hartselle perceive that existing school facilities are “good enough.” “Good enough” implies visionless endorsement of the status quo. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option for Hartselle, the region, the state and the nation. America has entered the age of global competition which in some way impacts every citizen of our country. Visionless complacency will continuously worsen the status quo - we must grow and adapt or we will certainly wither and die. How well we educate current and future generations will determine our status – be that success through vision and leadership, or failure through complacency.
The Hartselle School System is good, having been consistently recognized statewide for many years for both academic excellence and athletic prowess. A desirable balance in exemplary academics and extracurricular activities has been no accident. It is the result of leadership, qualifications and dedication of and by the school board, the staff and the faculty. These individuals singularly and collectively are providing children huge advantages as they move from the classroom to the remainder of their lives. Comparatively speaking, they have produced more for less than any other school system in Morgan County.
The “2007 Area Guide and Directory” published by the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce illustrates this well, as follows:
Some will maintain that this is “good enough”, however, the future will present challenges and opportunities for which “good enough” will not suffice. Our school facilities are overcrowded, and accommodations for teachers and students have been force-fit to the maximum resulting in far less than a desirable and effective teaching and learning environment.
Construction of a new high school will permit room for growth throughout the system. The plan for realignment of grades will allow room for student population growth as well as for outfitting individual rooms to be conducive to a more effective and desirable teaching and learning environment.
Growth alone is reason for concern. In 2005, Hartselle was reportedly the 18th fastest growing city in the state with a population of 13,080, up from 12,019 in the year 2000. The annual growth rate reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2005 was 1.7 percent as compared to Decatur’s 0.9 percent and Cullman’s 1.3 percent. Hartselle is centrally located in a seven-county region that experienced 22 percent of Alabama`s total population growth in the previous decade. This experienced, long-term growth can be reasonably expected to increase at a higher rate with implementation of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) at Redstone Arsenal which is projected to bring 12,000 new jobs to the North Alabama region. It is reasonable to expect that many of these employees and their families will reside in Hartselle, particularly since our school system is known outside of Hartselle to have the reputation of being among the best in the state.
Additionally, Morgan County will break ground this summer on the first phase (150 acres) of a new industrial park in the Thompson Road area. This new park will ultimately encompass approximately 1800 acres along Interstate 65 between Hartselle and Falkville and will bring additional residents as well as have a dramatic effect on job opportunities in the immediate area. Targeted industries for this new park will have a 21st century character; that of high technology and advanced manufacturing techniques.
Hartselle is also experiencing significant commercial and retail growth. In 2007, approximately $20 million was invested in new commercial activity along Highway 31.
The I65/Highway 36 area is in the early stages of imminent and significant business and retail development. Construction is currently in progress, and a new retail development in this interstate area is currently in due diligence planning. This too will bring additional residents.
A major concern is that of preparing our students to take advantage of high-tech jobs that will be offered in our area. For our graduates to be prepared and remain competitive, academic excellence must prevail. We accomplish this by: (1) Offering curricula compatible with emerging technology and future job demands; (2) Continuing to employ well qualified teachers and administrators who are dedicated to excellence; (3) Providing the best instructional environment practically possible.
Facilities limitations in our current school system serve as an impediment to attaining comprehensive academic excellence. This can and must be corrected with construction of the proposed new high school which will make possible adequate and upgraded classrooms for ninth through twelfth grades and increased space and upgrading of classrooms for all other grades. Additionally, a desperately needed new auditorium and a new gymnasium, each seating 1200 will totally enhance the overall academic environment and the Hartselle community as a whole.
Particularly important, this new high school will provide 10,000 square feet of space dedicated to vocational and technical training. This is acutely significant in that about 15% of Hartselle graduates do not attend college and many others attend only a two-year college. Considering this and the fact that nearby Calhoun Community College offers numerous school partnership programs designed for workforce development, many will have opportunities, not currently available, to prepare themselves for productive careers as highly trained skilled workers enabling them to be competitive for high-tech, good paying jobs.
At best, current ninth graders will be seniors before this new school can be occupied and relief gained for all those below. How many more children must be deprived of the cascading advantages of this new school? It is incumbent on all of us in Hartselle to assure that children attending Hartselle Schools in the future receive the very best education possible. They face a world unlike we know. They need every educational advantage to compete in our rapidly changing world. Please think of supporting this new school as your investment not only in their future, but in the future of our city, region, state and nation.
Today’s vision enables preparation for tomorrow. Without vision, we become complacent and progress is stifled. Let this not be said of the Hartselle community. This school is something we can reasonably afford to do. We cannot afford not to do it. Please look beyond individual concerns as you vote on March 11, and vote to provide the necessary dedicated revenue for bringing this new school to reality. Time is of the essence.

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