By John Mullen
As Daphne and Gulf Shores each ponder city school systems, the Baldwin County Board of Education has placed a hold on school projects there, county officials said.
“Gulf Shores and Daphne projects have been set as ‘timeline to be determined’ because those cities have current proposals to study the potential for creating their own city school systems,” Superintendent Eddie Tyler said. “It wouldn’t be a wise use of taxpayer dollars to proceed with construction while these discussions are in progress.”
Island board representative Angie Swiger says these projects were needed a long time ago and should proceed.
“I argued in last month’s meeting that we cannot foresee the future and these projects have been identified as critical needs,” Swiger said. “It is our job as a board and our responsibility to children to move forward with the projects.”
In Daphne, as part of a $60 million countywide building campaign, the county was poised to begin the $2.75 million addition of 14 classrooms and additional parking at Daphne Middle School. Gulf Shores Elementary was slated for a $3.8 million expansion, including classrooms and a gymnasium.
Both projects were scheduled to start in 2018 and help in replacing portables on the campuses. Funding the projects is a one-cent sales tax made permanent by the Baldwin County Commission on Jan. 3. It was first introduced in 2010, renewed by voters in 2012 and set to expire in May 2018.
Other projects in the effort include $15.5 million for a Foley Elementary expansion, $9.4 million for a K-6 expansion in Bay Minette, $6.3 million for a K-8 addition and renovation in Orange Beach and a $4 million expansion at the K-6 school in Fairhope.
Daphne is studying forming a school system in two phases, and last month voted to spend $35,000 in the first phase. In all, the City Council voted to spend $68,500 with the firm K-12 Criterion Group to study the feasibility of a city system.
Gulf Shores is in the preliminary phase, authorizing a $15,000 study by Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Kevin Corcoran of the Island Task Force for Education said his group raised $12,000 during presentations supporting the city system in the past few months.
“They call it an interactive budget tool,” Corcoran said. “We are going to sit down with them and we’re going to analyze both sides of the budget … the revenue and the expense side. We’re going to compare comparably sized school systems to help determine a cost budget for operating Gulf Shores City Schools.”
Corcoran stressed this is not a feasibility study, but rather a look at a budget to determine if such a study is warranted.