Parents weigh pros, cons, and question DCS consolidation plans

Parents weigh pros, cons, and question DCS consolidation plans
Small groups were formed where community members could discuss what they liked and did not like about each proposal. (Source: WSFA 12 News)
Small groups were formed where community members could discuss what they liked and did not like about each proposal. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - Dothan City Schools held its first community meeting for people to weigh in on plans to close some schools next year.

Dr. Edwards said the system has already gotten over 200 responses in questions and feedback about consolidation plans - both positive and negative.

"I started working on answering them over the weekend," said Dr. Edwards.

After Monday's meeting, she'll have more to add to the list. Dozens filled the conference room at the Wiregrass Museum of Art to hear the proposals. Many had to stand during the over hour-long presentation.

Edwards walked through the four consolidation proposals explaining how each would impact the system and her desire to bring the system together.

"I believe right now, Dothan City is a system of schools and what I want is to have us be a school system," said Edwards.

After, community members worked in small groups to discuss what they liked and didn't like about each proposal.

Kareem Martin's nephew is in enrolled in Dothan City Schools. He said it was important for him to attend Monday's meeting.

"You like to know what's going on," said Martin, "If we're going to have a good school system, we have to strengthen the school system. Every child - white, black, Asian, Latina, first language English or not, deserves a chance and that's what the public school system is for," said Martin.

Martin said the school scenarios that appeal to him are the options where eighth and ninth graders are grouped.

"An opportunity to mature a little bit and maybe get a little stronger in their academics before they get thrown off the deep end," said Martin.

He said the label of "magnet schools" is something the system should move away from and, instead, focus on strengthening the fundamental reading skills and soft skills needed. But Martin said some of his bigger questions aren't spelled out on the graphics and slides.

"I'm also interested in how the school zones will look, because that's another big part of this that nobody is really talking about," said Martin. "It's one of those things where it's a lot of big pieces to make it a whole. This part is one part. Redistricting is another."

Melissa Faulk has two children in Dothan City Schools. Faulk said while she is excited about progress for the district, the future of magnet schools is a big concern.

"I just want to make sure every magnet child, regardless of the scenario, is able to learn and be challenged and have the same conduct benchmark that they have now," said Faulk.

In the new consolidation proposals, the school board must decide whether to give all schools magnet programs or keep magnet schools separate.

Faulk said while she agrees with closing schools to save money based on what's discussed in the proposals, she also said the proposals still leave a lot of room for questions like redistricting, and money allocation.

"I feel like there is a lot of unknown, as it should be, because this is still a very early process. I'm just trying to gain some confidence," said Faulk.

Edwards said the proposals are just suggestions and can be changed based on community feedback and the board's decision. She will not have a vote in the final decision.

The next community meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Dothan Civic Center.

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