School district considering adding schools

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, February 1, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Rapid growth in Alabaster and other Shelby County cities has the Shelby County School District looking at building new facilities over the next several years, according to Superintendent Randy Fuller.

After studying the population and enrollment trends throughout the county, the school district tagged Alabaster, Helena, Chelsea and Calera as its high-growth areas, and is looking at the possibility of one day adding new schools in those cities, Fuller said.

“We are seeing really substantial growth in those communities,” Fuller said, noting the county added 400 new students last year. “We looked at the growth data, and we identified those as our dynamic zones.”

The school district’s zoning board constantly studies the growth numbers in every zone in the county, and works to identify areas in need of additional school facilities.

Because the school district is projecting a growth of about 3,000 students over the next six years, it is attempting to plan ahead by identifying concentrated areas of growth now, Fuller said.

“Each school community has a zone, and our zoning group takes a look at each zone and puts the information together,” Fuller said. “Alabaster is one of our big growth areas right now. We have plans for a new building there.”

School district officials have not yet decided what type of school they will build in Alabaster. However, Fuller previously told the Alabaster City Council it could be a middle- or intermediate-level school.

“We haven’t finalized what type of school would be best for Alabaster yet,” Fuller said.

Fuller said a new elementary school likely would cost between $12-18 million, a middle school could cost between $15-20 million and a new high school likely would come with a $25-30 million price tag.

“Those are real rough estimates. The building cost can vary greatly,” Fuller said. “But the prices are reduced now from where they have been in the past.”

Fuller also said the new schools are pending the 30-year renewal of Shelby County’s current 30 mills of property tax. Voters will decide whether or not to renew the taxes during a Feb. 8 election.

Twenty-eight percent of the school system’s budget comes from the property tax, and the district likely would not be able to secure the bonds needed to fund the new schools if the tax renewal does not pass, Fuller said.

“If the tax renewal fails, building would stop,” Fuller said.

The tax renewal also would help fund personnel, special programs and operational expenses at the county’s current schools and any schools built in the future, he said.

“I’ve been to several of the school zones, and everyone is very passionate about this (tax issue),” Fuller said. “We just want what’s best for the school system. This is for our children’s future.”