County BOE approves A.C. Moore consolidation

Published 12:51 pm Thursday, June 29, 2017

By Corey Williams

The Brewton Standard

Board votes 5-1 in favor of consolidation

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On Thursday, the Escambia County School Board decided to move forward with the consolidation of A.C. Moore Elementary School with Rachel Patterson Elementary School and Escambia County Middle School.

The recommendation was brought to the board by superintendent John Knott who was strong and adamant of a decision from the board to move forward, whether it was a yes or no.

“I want what’s best for he kids,” Knott said to the board. “I respect everyone’s decision. Whatever the board decides I’ll address the issue, keep everyone informed and keep moving forward. If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards. There is no standing still. If students were functioning where we need them to be I’d be okay, but we can’t accept mediocrity in our schools.”

Actions to implement the consolidation include:

  • Pre-K and third grades move to Rachel Patterson Elementary School;
  • Fourth grades move to Escambia County Middle School;
  • Reorganization of school programs and school assignment of personnel; and,
  • Reorganization of all support services (CNP, Transportation, Special Services, etc.)

Knott said consideration for the consolidation includes the age of the A.C. Moore building and maintenance of schools, availability of space, drop ward trend of enrollment, safety and security, instructional needs and accountability of success in the classroom, student transition, transportation and stakeholders. He said that no staff will be eliminated because of the consolidation, and that overtime personnel will decrease.

Two big concerns of board members if the consolidation was to move forward is the merging of fourth grade students with middle school students, and the becoming of the vacant A.C. Moore building.

School board member David Nolin of District No. 6, who spent 14 years with A.C. Moore, opposed the recommendation of moving forward, feeling the decision was too haste and that moving fourth graders to the middle school was cutting elementary time short.

“Small school situations have proven to be better, than big school situations,” Nolin said. “I think the consolidation will have a negative response in the community if we do it now. I recommend we study the situation for a year then decide what we’ll do with A.C. Moore and how it affects the kids.”

Danny Benjamin of District No. 2 was concerned about what would become of the A.C. Moore building without a proper plan in place. Benjamin voted in favor of the consolidation.

“We need to think about what we need to do with the property,” Benjamin said. “I think that needs to be on the table before we move forward.”

Knott said that the use of A.C. Moore by interested parties will be a high priority and expressed the city of Atmore is interested in working with the community for use of the building.

Knott said he hopes the A.C. Moore property can be used for youth or summer programs. The city expresses interest in working with the community about the building.

“My suggestion is if we sell or lease the property, we want occupants to maintain the structure of the building,” he said.

For A.C. Moore fourth graders joining middle school students at Escambia County, Knott used the blueprint of Pollard-McCall, Huxford and Flomaton schools as an example.

“We don’t want to departmentalize fourth graders with this plan,” Knott said. “It is our plan not to departmentalize fifth graders at ECMS as well.”

At ECMS, fourth graders will have their own separate wing.

Board members Willie J. Grissett, (District No. 5), Mike Edwards (District No. 3), Coleman Wallace (District No. 7) and Kevin Hoomes (District No. 1) agreed in moving forward with the consolidation recommendation. Cindy Jackson of District No. 4 was not present for the meeting.

“I’m for the consolidation,” Wallace said. “We need to look forward. Delaying this decision will not delay people’s anxiety. I think now is the time.”

As to when the consolidation will take place, Knott said the change will be ready for the upcoming school year.

Knott said in the coming weeks he will meet with administrative staff to gather everyone’s input to come up with the best plan, adding that not a whole lot of physical movement will be done.

“Before any physical movement, we’ll talk with staff members about decisions,” Knott said. “We’re moving forward, but we’re going to be careful with our steps. We’re going to involve everyone to have the best system in place.”