School leader, community react to consolidation plans for Dothan City Schools

Community meeting held to discuss plans to close Dothan City schools
Updated: Aug. 17, 2018 at 6:18 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - Big changes are coming to Dothan City Schools next year and it comes with both excitement and concern.

Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards presented four school consolidation proposals to the school board during a work session Thursday at Honeysuckle Middle School. Dr. Edwards says downsizing the system will help save $3 -5 million that would go back into classroom instruction - like making sure each school has arts, music, and P.E or hiring Reading and Math Specialists. She says the money would also go towards building maintenance. Dothan City Schools has roughly $15 -16 million in deferred maintenance costs.

The four plans involve closing five to six schools. Although each plan includes keeping different schools open, schools like Grandview, Cloverdale, and Faine Elementary aren't on any list to keep open. Honeysuckle Middle School is listed as the new location for the Central Office and a Pre-K facility.

School Board Chairman Mike Schmitz says while there is a lot to take in with these plans, he feels like the school system is moving in the right direction.

"I'm proud that she looked at a lot of data and facts when she made her recommendations. It's based on real world information in 2018," said Schmitz. "If you look at the whole community, we have to look at how we help every child succeed."

Briana Baker has two children in Dothan City Schools - a sophomore at Northview High School and a seventh-grader at Girard Middle School. She says she agrees with the Dr. Edwards' proposals to make changes to save money.

"She's trying. As long as she's trying. She sees a problem and she's trying to fix it. I'm with her 100 percent," said Baker.

What does give Baker concern, the proposals that group elementary and middle school students together.

"It can be a little intimidating for the little kids and bigger kids to be in the same school," said Baker.

She favors the more traditional consolidation plan that downsizes the system, but has set elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

In addition to weighing options on school closings, Dr. Edwards also tasked the school board with deciding the future of magnet schools. School board members must decide between keeping magnet schools separate or giving each school a magnet program.

Sarah Hall's grandchildren and great-grandchildren are enrolled in Dothan City Schools. She favors the idea of giving all schools magnet programs.

"I believe it would be a wonderful idea," said Hall. "I believe everybody should get an opportunity to be able to be exposed to everything the system has for them."

But not everyone agrees in having magnet schools on the chopping block. There is a rally set for Tuesday afternoon to show support of magnet schools. Organizers say the purpose of the rally is to let Dr. Edwards know community members want to keep the current magnet schools.

The system is has created a survey where parents can ask questions about the consolidation proposals.

There is a community meeting set for Monday at 10 a.m. at the Wiregrass Museum. Dr. Edwards will present the plans and hear community feedback on the proposal.

Next week the school system will host two community meetings to discuss the plan and get feedback. Monday's Meeting is at 10 a.m. at the Wiregrass Museum of Art.

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