School could put building to use

Published 1:14 pm Sunday, March 3, 2013

Like other schools in Chilton County and around the state, Jemison High School is bursting at the seams.

The school facility isn’t large enough to adequately accommodate all its students. Because testing sometimes requires the school to alter its normal schedule and classroom assignments, administrators are forced to transport students to and from alternate locations.

The problem isn’t expected to go away, as Principal Allen Wilson told the Chilton County Board of Education he expects enrollment to top 800 students in the 2013-14 academic year. So, it’s understandable that Wilson would seek potential solutions.

He approached the board about one such solution on Feb. 19 about renovating an empty building on the school campus that served as classroom space in the past. In addition to offering overflow space, the building could offer restroom facilities for the nearby softball field during athletic competitions.

There are few other obvious fixes to the overenrollment issue at the school. The old Jemison Middle School also sits empty, but it would require much more money for upgrades before becoming usable again. The gym at the location was in such bad shape that it had to be torn down.

Jemison Middle students and teachers moved into a new building that was constructed to be the home of Jemison Intermediate School, but the plan for four schools in Jemison has had to be put on hold indefinitely.

The building Wilson wants to use, meanwhile, is structurally sound. Law enforcement continue to use the facility for canine training. Also, a new roof was installed not long ago.

Like almost every other decision the board of education is faced with, this one will come down to weighing the potential benefit versus the amount of money it would cost a cash-strapped system. The need for renovations to the building so it can be used by the school again is obvious, but what’s less clear is whether there are funds to pay for it.

If the board can come up with the money, Jemison High students, teachers and administrators would surely appreciate the extra space.