Photo | Lagniappe
Robbie Smith, Chase Smith and Erika McCoy
Not knowing how many students are coming to start the new Orange Beach Middle School-High School is one of the many challenges facing officials preparing to get the seventh-through-10th-grade school up and running.
“We do not currently have definitive numbers for how many students will be enrolled with us this fall, which creates many challenges, from hiring staff to planning a master schedule, sports, extra-curricular opportunities, transportation and safety,” high school principal Dr. Erika McCoy said. “As parents ourselves, we know changing schools is often a difficult decision for families and students, so we completely understand the situation at hand. Our hope is to have more solid enrollment figures by mid-June.”
But, says middle school principal Dr. Robbie Smith, the two are still hiring faculty and staff members.
“We are ahead of schedule,” Smith said. “At this point, all of our faculty members have been recommended for hire or have been board approved, with the exception of one teaching position and an assistant principal. In regard to staff members, we are aiming to fill positions such as bus drivers, nurses and custodians in the next few weeks.”
Smith moved to Orange Beach from Hartselle Jr. High School and McCoy came to town from Haleyville High School. They are also currently overseeing the construction of two self-contained portable buildings, one for the middle school on the elementary school campus and the other across the street on city land for the high school.
“The two modular units are completely enclosed,” McCoy said. “The middle school building will have eight classrooms and two office spaces, while the high school will have 10 classrooms and two office spaces.”
Eventually, classes will be held in the sparkling new seventh-through-12th-grade building under construction on Canal Road near the Orange Beach Sportsplex. Baldwin County is spending about $26 million for the building and the city of Orange Beach is contributing $7.2 million of the $8.6 million cost to build a 700-seat performing arts center. The plan is to move into the new building for the 2020-2021 school year.
“We are making great progress each day,” Smith said. “The collaborative efforts of Baldwin County and the city of Orange Beach have helped us move very quickly in a number of situations. We have hired an outstanding team of teachers and are excited to get into our new homes, affectionately known as ‘Mako Village.’”
But, McCoy said, starting a school from scratch is still presenting many challenges.
“Starting a school from the ground up is a challenge, but an exciting one,” McCoy said. “We have spent many hours seeking out top teachers, creating a world-class brand, working on locations and transportation that will certainly impact Orange Beach Elementary School as well. With three campus locations all within 100 yards of one another, there are considerations requiring teamwork from all involved.”
Teachers will begin working at the schools on Aug. 5 and students report on Aug. 14.
“The excitement about the new schools is contagious,” Smith said. “Everyone has been so welcoming and positive; it has been a great experience.”
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