During the Gadsden County school board retreat, two plans were presented; one by new Superintendent Roger Milton and another by the school board chairman, Isaac Simmons. Milton presented his plan that consolidates most of the county's schools to better facilitate the use of the mostly-aging school facilities and was featured in last week’s Herald newspaper.
Chairman Isaac Simmons raised his plan in the second half of the retreat.
"Roger Milton presented his plan for the county, showing a preference for consolidation,” said Simmons. “Constituents in my district trust me to do what's right for our students. I'm the only board member to bring an alternative plan. I want to work together as a team. All of our facilities have problems. Currently, we're spending more money at East Gadsden and West Gadsden High Schools on the air conditioning (units). They are the two newest schools."
Simmons said as to the proposed one-high school concept at East Gadsden, location presents a hardship to the students. It is 27 miles from Chattahoochee and 31 miles from St. John. “Transportation is a major issue," he said. He cited a lack of drivers, buses, repairs, mileage and gas as integral parts of the problems.
Simmons' school reconfiguration proposal includes:
• Closing GEMS and relocating students to a school within a school at Chattahoochee Elementary in 2017-2018
• Apply in 2017 for special facility funding for a new elementary school (K-5) to be built between St. Johns and Gretna.
• In 2018, apply for special facility funding to consolidate Stewart Street and George W. Monroe Elementary schools/K-5
• Renovate and repair Shanks Middle school in 2020.
• In 2021, renovate and repair Carter-Parramore Academy. "I do not support razing this facility; there's too much Black history that needs to be preserved,” he said.
“This proposal would eliminate a total of five schools and reduce the overall impact of trying to close schools too fast,” said Simmons. “We currently have a total of 14 schools. This proposal would reduce the total to nine facilities.”
Simmons said he supported the two high schools structure that the county currently has. He said busing and school start times would have to be impacted, which would be a hardship on students and parents. He added that any proposed changes in work scheduling would have to be approved by the two unions.