Watson: We’re working on logistics

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said Tuesday all the logistics haven’t been worked out when it comes to closing the current middle school campus, the board will look into how much it costs to refurbish the school as an alternative to building, and that public input will be sought.

“I know a lot of parents have concerns,” he said. “I can empathize with them having gone through this battle coming up on 11 years ago with the elementary school. I want parents to understand that we know we can pull off the supervision of the kids. I know that’s a main concern.”

In July the board approved a five-year capital plan that will close the current Andalusia Middle School campus and place seventh and eighth graders at the high school and sixth graders on the elementary school campus. Plans are to build a separate wing for the upper-level middle schoolers at the high school, and build a separate kindergarten wing at the elementary school.

“The board took a giant step Monday night, whether it be to refurbish the middle school or build two new wings,” he said. “Yes, we have some ideas about what is going to happen. I challenge anyone to tell me the logistics of their vacation to the ‘nth’ degree, much less something of this degree.”

Watson said there is no way to work out all of the logistics right now.

“There were logistics that were being worked out up until the day we opened the doors at the elementary school,” he said. “Everyone can be a Monday morning quarterback. But the fact is, if you open one door, it opens to 10 other questions. We are trying to take it one step at a time.

Watson said teachers in the school system will have the opportunity to voice what they think is necessary for the project.

“We will follow the same protocol that we did when we built the elementary school,” he said. “People will be brought in for all phases.

At two public forums, parents and community members voiced concerns about having sixth graders at the elementary school and having seventh and eighth graders at the high school intermingling with older students.

“The key to keeping the kids separated is the location of the kids and keeping it age-appropriate,” he said. “While they will share common areas, it will not be at the same time.”

Watson said it’s also important for parents to understand that, now, students in the middle school, as well as the elementary school, have their own wings, and they do not see each other.

“During the course of the day, they are separated,” he said. Technically, they will have their own school. If we draw this thing up correctly, they could have their own front to look like their own school. It would be its own separate facility that happens to be located on the high school campus. Andalusia has done this before, years ago, and did so with many more kids in the system.”

Watson said while plans are to utilize the secondary teachers to the best of their school system’s ability, middle schoolers will not attend classes with older students.

“If we must utilize these secondary teachers, they would go to the middle school wing,” he said.

Watson said he and board members believe the middle school students deserve facilities that are comparable to the elementary and high schools.

“This (plan) did pick up speed with the availability of the bond issue, but I think it can be a very positive thing for our system,” he said. “Something needs to change at the middle school.”

Watson said he wasn’t going to “rag out” the middle school, but it’s not suitable for heavy traffic.

As for using the building as a new central office, Watson said it is more suitable for use as a place of business than a school because it’s not comparable to the other two facilities.

“With a new AMS facility, we can have hundreds more computers than simply 10 running,” he said. “It will allow our students more technology, in a technology-driven world.”

Additionally, Watson said each room at the middle school has its own heating and cooling controls, which allows for it to be turned off when not in use.

“While we would have to heat and cool the new facilities, you have to understand that we are leaving one facility to take our kids into the 21st Century,” he said. “In terms of renovation, we are talking about a 1960s building. I suppose anything can be renovated. We are going to study how much it would cost to renovate the middle school.”

Other parents and community members have asked how athletics, band and art will be affected.

“We fully intend to keep every program we offer at the middle school,” he said.

Watson said with the building of the new physical education facility at, this will allow for proper practice facilities for athletics, PE and band to make the day run smoothly.

“The truth of the matter is the money for the PE facility might seem like getting the cart before the horse, while it is really paramount to the success of the transition,” he said. “It is an extension of the building at the high school.”

Watson said sports teams and band will have the opportunity to utilize the new facility, the baseball field, the band practice area and the football field, as well as the football practice area. Watson said there are also two gyms and a track.

“We are pretty rich in terms of places to practice,” he said.

Watson said he has spoken to AHS band director Bennie Shellhouse about ways to ensure the middle school band program continues.

At Thursday’s public forum, Watson said he saw no reason why middle school band director Lee Stacks couldn’t come to the elementary school and utilize the multipurpose room for a band room.

The board will meet for its regularly scheduled meeting Mon., Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at AMS.