While most of the attention during last week’s Baldwin County Board of Education meeting was given to a proposal for a new Orange Beach Middle School, the school system also announced a plan to …
While most of the attention during last week’s Baldwin County Board of Education meeting was given to a proposal for a new Orange Beach Middle School, the school system also announced a plan to bring a new elementary school to Bay Minette, setting up a replacement for the original school built in 1929.
In a 5-2 vote, with board members Angie Swiger and David Tarwater dissenting, the board decided to change its capital budget to allow the construction of a new $13.4 million elementary school in Bay Minette, as well as $14.9 million for the new Orange Beach Middle School on Canal Road.
The system was able to make the changes for only an additional $8.7 million to the capital budget through the use of reserves, surplus money, savings from other projects and unused BP settlement funds.
Bay Minette Elementary was originally on track to get a $9.4 million expansion which included 35 new classrooms. Now, the new school construction will include space for more than 900 students.
“When the board approved the Phase III capital construction plan a few months ago, the board and I made it clear that the Bay Minette Elementary classroom addition and renovation proposal wasn’t set in stone,” Superintendent Eddie Tyler said. “I asked our team to take another look and they did. John Wilson, CFO, was able to identify an additional $4 million that could be used to build a new Bay Minette Elementary School, funds that came about from our BP settlement, being frugal with our finances and other construction bids coming in under budget. Our team made it happen and our board heartily approved it.”
Bay Minette Mayor Bob Wills said citizens in his city and across North Baldwin were gratified by the news.
“The entire Bay Minette and North Baldwin area is excited about the great news that the Baldwin County Board of Education has voted to build a new elementary school in Bay Minette,” Wills said. “This is a tremendous boost to our students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community in general. Great things are happening here and this will be instrumental in continuing our progress. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Board for this decision.”
North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Jones Davis said the new school would be a needed wonderful addition to the community.
“The North Baldwin Chamber of Commerce applauds the decision of the Baldwin County Board of Education and thanks them for investing in our students,” Davis said. “This will be a huge asset for our area. There are many great things happening in North Baldwin and we are excited about what the future holds.”
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School officials said they recognize there is some dissent in the Gulf Shores community after a new proposed elementary school was shelved and the Orange Beach Middle School project was moved forward.
However, the system’s plan to merge the existing Gulf Shores Middle School complex in with the existing Gulf Shores Elementary School campus does allow the system to address several needs on that campus that system officials believe will benefit the students and community.
“Building the middle school in Orange Beach allows us to start immediately on a plan to address the portables at Gulf Shores Elementary, as opposed to waiting for the City of Gulf Shores to make a decision on whether or not they want a separate school system,” Wilson said. “Letting the elementary school expand into the middle school campus creates 25 additional classrooms, two gymnasiums, a great deal more green space and approximately 415 fewer students on campus, which will allow us the ability to completely reconfigure the car and bus drop off areas to improve traffic and congestion.”
Wilson said the concerns about potential traffic issues with the proposals were also being addressed.
“The school will have two access points with an additional road connecting the two access roads behind the proposed schools, allowing a large number of cars to line up behind the school without any overflow impacting Canal Road,” Wilson said.
Wilson also said the location of the proposed Orange Beach Middle School could be beneficial to its students because of its proximity to existing Orange Beach city amenities.
“With the sports complex right across the street, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Middle School students will have direct walking access to an incredible sports complex that many middle schools in the state would jump at the opportunity to have,” Wilson said.