Orange Beach parents express concerns ahead of school split

By: Crystal Cole/ Islander Editor
Posted 12/17/18

Orange Beach parents of school-aged children met recently to discuss issues that will affect their children after Gulf Shores breaks off to form its own city school system.

The split, which looks …

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Orange Beach parents express concerns ahead of school split

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Orange Beach parents of school-aged children met recently to discuss issues that will affect their children after Gulf Shores breaks off to form its own city school system.

The split, which looks to be finalized later this month, will leave at least middle school children in Orange Beach without a building.

The city received approval for a new middle school/ high school building from the Baldwin County Board of Education with the city chipping in a substantial amount of money. The hope was to have the school ready for a fall 2019 opening, but initial bids for the project came in at almost double the estimate. In November, BCBE approved a $26.1 million bid from Sharp Inc. for the 110,000 square foot facility which now has an expected completion date of June 2020.

While Mayor Tony Kennon expressed disappointment in the turnout of the meeting, enough parents were present to split into two groups (middle and high school) to discuss their main concerns.

Both groups had athletics at the top of their list. Norma Lynch, BCBE representative for the area, said sports is always a big concern for parents no matter the situation.

“There’s always questions about athletics, how will my child play,” Lynch said. “Until we get the kids and found out what their interests are and what teams they can field that’s something we really can’t answer.”

Lynch and Kennon told the parents that a portable village would more than likely be the solution to housing the students with a covered patio area between them utilized for eating outside on nice days.

Academics were also a large concern, with many parents curious if there would be plentiful and diverse class offerings. Lynch said what is offered is largely dependent on what the students register for themselves. She said any AP and IB classes would be automatically offered, although it might be offered through an online portal. She also said the new principal would have to be creative with staffing in the early years, with some teachers asked to staff multiple subjects or grade levels.

No matter the outcome, Kennon remains vigilant that the school become one of the best in the state.

“I am not comparing Orange Beach schools to the county,” Kennon said. “I’m comparing Orange Beach schools to the best in the state. If we can’t be the best in the state, then we have underachieved. We have the ability, the financial wherewithal to be the best in the state. No one can hold us back. We have to as a community expect excellence, hold our kids to it and hold other parents to it. If we don’t demand excellence, if we don’t demand that we are the best in the state then we’re not going to get it.”