Florala middle school closing

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thursday, the Covington County Board of Education voted 3-0, with board member James Prestwood abstaining, to close Florala City Middle School and to establish a Red Level Elementary School and Red Level High School.

In order to alleviate costs in the short term, interim superintendent Terry Holley suggested “a realignment of the Covington County School System.”

“I felt like we needed to look at every aspect — from my personal point of view — for any way to better improve things for the long term,” he said.

“The (2009-2010) budget is figured now with 6 percent proration. That figure could increase to as much as 10 percent, but in all likelihood we’re looking at 8 percent proration, and that’s on top of the 11 percent proration for this year.

“We can counteract that 8 percent proration with stimulus money, since we have some flexibility in the way we spend money because of proration,” he said. “That stimulus money is keeping us afloat, and we’re trying to stretch it as much as we can, but we’re looking at three to four years before the economy recovers and we match what we’ve lost.”

The two changes are effective immediately “on paper,” but physical closing of Florala City Middle School will occur in the summer of 2010, Holley said.

When asked why the Red Level and Florala schools were chosen, he said there were two different factors behind the decisions.

“First off the decision to split Red Level will be tremendous in regards to AYP,” said Holley, speaking of “Adequate Yearly Progress,” testing procedures in which schools must meet 100 percent of their federal No Child Left Behind goals in math, reading and attendance/graduation rates.

“By splitting the school, Red Level Elementary School can be considered as one school and Red Level High School can be considered as one school,” he said. “By doing it now, we can see the change reflected for next year’s funding.”

There will be no physical structural changes at the Red Level School. The elementary school will consist of kindergarten through sixth grade and the high school will consist of seventh through 12th grades.

Holley said the schools will lose the funding for half a principal but allow for a librarian at both the elementary and high schools.

As for FCMS, the school currently houses a student body of only 74 students, making the decision to close it a financial one. Ownership of the building is expected to revert back to the city of Florala, and FCMS students will be shifted to Florala High School at the beginning of the next school year, he said.

Regarding staffing at both Red Level and Florala, Holley said, “We’ll look at that come spring. Those that are tenured will have a job. It may not be in Florala, but wherever the need is at. As for non-tenured, we’ll look at those as usual and determine where the need is.”

Holley said a “number” of teachers are set to retire at the end of this school year, which will help in teacher placement.

The only question from the board came from Jimmy Rogers, who asked, “So now is the opportune time?”

Holley said, “I don’t know about this economy, but I do know that the things we do now affect what we as a system have in the long term and we’re going to do what we need to do to provide a quality education system for the children of Covington County.”