Alabaster mayor discusses school split with LNLC parents

Published 8:58 pm Monday, November 14, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabaster Mayor David Frings said he had an “eye-opening” experience Nov. 14 when he met with Alabaster parents whose children currently attend the Linda Nolen Learning Center.

During the meeting, which was a little more than an hour-and-a-half long at the Alabaster Senior Center, Frings spoke with about 12 people representing six families of LNLC students.

The LNLC serves students from across the county who have significant special needs. Currently, 19 Alabaster students attend the school, which is about one-third of the LNLC enrollment, Frings said.

Frings held the meeting after he said some LNLC parents shared their concerns after the Alabaster City Council voted to split from the Shelby County School System and form an Alabaster school system.

“I knew I couldn’t answer a lot of their questions tonight, because there is a lot that the (Alabaster school) board will have to decide,” Frings said. “But I wanted to meet with them and share information as soon as it became available.”

During the meeting, parents told Frings there can be significant cost associated with equipment for special-needs students, and encouraged the city to have a standalone school for special-needs children after the split occurs in the next few years.

Parents also said a sudden change of venue from the LNLC to an Alabaster special-needs facility could be detrimental to the students.

“Basically, we didn’t know what was going to happen with our kids who live in Alabaster,” said Alabaster resident Nancy Owen, whose 17-year-old son attends LNLC. “We didn’t know if he would be able to stay at the center or not.”

Owen said she still had questions after the meeting, but she said many will not be answered until a city school board is seated.

“I feel like they have a very big job ahead of them. Many issues were raised about the care of our children tonight,” Owen said. “But I do feel like the mayor listened to our concerns. I know he can’t answer everything, because it’s not in his ability to do so.”

Frings said he and other city officials are working to plan a tour of the LNLC to learn more about the facility, and said he plans to stay in contact with the parents who attended the meeting.

“I will encourage the board (of education) to set up a meeting with these people early on. We don’t want to add any more burden to these parents. They don’t need that,” Frings said. “This meeting was really just to set the stage.”