County schools get big share of state payment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Shelby County&8217;s share of a statewide $11 million &8220;pool bond&8221; payment has come just in time.

Gov. Bob Riley announced the payout, of which Shelby County will take over $900,000, on Monday &8212; only days after the Shelby County Board of Education was forced to install 60 trailer classrooms before the start of the new school year.

&8220;These funds could definitely help offset what we&8217;ve been planning,&8221; Shelby County schools assistant superintendent of operations Tom Ferguson said.

Shelby County has participated in the pool bond program longer than almost any other county in Alabama, Ferguson said.

Schools participating in the program, which began in 1999, levied money that the state would regularly pay them yearly in exchange for interest earned on the bond.

Ferguson said the money must go to building, or, &8220;brick and mortar&8221; projects.

The county school system has grown by over 4,000 students over the past five years and despite new schools being built, such as Chelsea Park Elementary School, school board members agree that there is still a crunch on space.

&8220;We&8217;ve had to add eight additional classrooms at Chelsea Park even before it opens,&8221; Ferguson said. &8220;And we&8217;ve had to come up with the necessary funds to pay for the additions.&8221;

The system is also in the process of building a new Calera High School and Helena Middle School, but school board officials admit that they would need at least three more schools to properly accommodate students.

&8220;We have utilized this school bond program to its fullest potential,&8221; Ferguson said. &8220;We&8217;re definitely scrutinizing how we use the funds to help offset all of our planning needs.&8221;

In addition to new trailer classrooms, the school board also agreed to hire 125 more teachers and purchase 40 buses before the start of the school year