The Talladega School Board voted to hold a town hall and a meeting called to discuss options for consolidating schools within the system.
The decision to approve both meetings came after a presentation by Superintendent Dr. Quentin Lee on his first seven months on the job.
Lee again addressed options for the system to consolidate facilities given the system’s declining enrollment trend, which translates into a declining state funding trend. The options offered were similar to those put forward by Lee in a series of town hall meetings in late January, but Lee stressed that he had explored the options further and considered parent feedback.
“I surveyed parents, I surveyed our faculty and staff,” he said, “and I looked at every comment and suggestion to see if it was valid and to see if we could establish a link to go with the direction of our district.
Lee submitted four plans in total, up from the three he had previously submitted.
Its first plan was functionally the same as originally presented during town halls.
“Plan A is that we make no changes,” Lee said, but reminded the board that the system would lose the elementary and secondary school emergency relief program and the public school stabilization funds provided in the part of pandemic relief efforts will disappear.
“If we stick to this option, we will have no choice but to reduce the number of staff and teachers by 12 to 20 units,” he said. “Many of our schools are currently overstaffed and we have to fund them locally just because of the demands.”
Plan Ba, as Lee called it, would see the system shut down Graham and Young Elementary and consolidate elementary students into Houston and Saulter Elementary. He said that option would mean the school would close two pre-kindergarten programs and lose another eight to 15 units of employees.
The superintendent said it would help lower the average daily membership system, the metric or enrollment that Alabama uses for its funding calculations.
“It would help ADM again,” Lee said. “When you close schools and move them to another, you still envision having the same students, but you combine them in a different arrangement, I guess you could say, and you receive funding based on that .”
He said Plan Bb would be to shut down Saulter and consolidate those students into Young and Graham.
“That would mean we would shut down a pre-k program,” Lee said. “We would eventually have to reduce the number of teachers and staff from 10 to 16, but if we did, we would have an unused gymnasium that we are still currently paying for.”
Plan C would reorganize elementary schools to serve specific grades. Kindergarten and kindergarten would go to Young, first through third to Saulter and fourth through sixth to Houston.
Lee said this plan would still see a loss of five to eight employees.
“So we wouldn’t lose that many, but we’re going to have to cut some just because of the numbers,” he said.
Lee said it would also allow the system to keep all four pre-k programs open at one school.
One downside he mentions is transportation issues, but he said he discussed the options with the transportation department.
Lee’s Plan D would have the system simply rezone all elementary schools. This plan would also include the transfer of all special education students to their base school instead of Graham, where the system currently provides services to all students in the system.
Board member Jake Montgomery said after Lee’s presentation that he felt the system had no choice but to do something.
Montgomery asked Lee how soon the board should make a decision on one of the plans. Lee replied that the state had informed the system that it would need to know the plan for the system by the end of the month.
Council ultimately decided that it would be best to seek public comment at a public meeting held in council chambers at 5 p.m. on February 15. Montgomery suggested that the normalcy requirement for getting approval to address the board be waived, but that a time limit for individual questions or concerns could be put in place.
The board then approved a meeting called to make its final decision on February 21 at 5:00 p.m.
Taylor Mitchell is a Daily Home reporter covering Pell City.