A group of Northport citizens is working to determine its next move after a vote by the Tuscaloosa County Board of Education to proceed with plans for a new school.
The school board approved plans Monday evening for a new fifth and sixth-grade school near Tuscaloosa County High School. The group Citizens for a Better Northport circulated an online petition against the plan and brought parents to the meeting to encourage the board to delay the vote, asking for further review of options.
Citizens for a Better Northport wants the system to build a middle school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Group member Jamie Dykes says Northport citizens have long expected a new middle school to serve the Tuscaloosa County High school zone. She says this is the best fit for projected growth, and the plan the school board approved will discourage people from purchasing homes in the area.
"I think when you put a K-4, then a 5-6, 7-8, 9-12, that's a detriment to our neighborhoods and to the economy," Dykes said.
Superintendent Walter Davie said he appreciates the group's passion and concern, but he believes a fifth and sixth-grade school is the best fit for all students, within the system's resources.
"I would ask and hope that people would realize our school system has served Northport very well for a lot of years," Davie said. "We've had a good strong partnership with Northport. We cannot do everything that people want us to do. We are limited significantly by resources."
He said due to overcrowding in existing schools, the board must proceed with a decision because school construction takes several years.
"We've done an awful lot of work on this, so many different scenarios. If we really thought that there was a realistic other option for us that would make sense for serving those kids, we would. But the real fact is, the growth is coming."
Davie said the plan is not final, and the system would be open to making changes, particularly if additional resources become available.
And although parents at Monday's meeting expressed disapproval of the plan, Davie says many other parents have expressed positive opinions. He also said the system has made changes to the existing plan to address concerns of parents, like reducing the number of students that will attend the fifth and sixth-grade school.
Meanwhile, Citizens for a Better Northport invites the community to a forum Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Northport City Hall to discuss the group's next steps.
"We're not going at this blind," Dykes said.
"It's just something that we really want considered. It's for all of the citizens and the students that are in the Tuscaloosa County High School zone."
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