Chelsea schools at an important crossroads

FROM STAFF REPORTS / Editorial 

Does the good outweigh the bad? That’s a decision the city of Chelsea and its residents will likely soon be faced with after the city council approved a feasibility study on creating its own school system at a meeting on Tuesday, June 15.

The study will determine if it is possible for the city to move forward, and if so, what they will need to do to make it possible.

Should Chelsea make the decision to move forward with creating a city school system, it would be the third to breakaway from Shelby County Schools, the top-ranked county school system in the state, following in the footsteps of Alabaster and Pelham.

It is a decision, however, that can’t be made lightly or selfishly.

Nothing about starting a city school system is easy, and while Chelsea will have local examples to lean on with some of the top city school systems in the state residing in the metro area, the city has to do it in a way that keeps the city united.

In order to make it happen, the city will likely need to incorporate areas such as the Highland Lakes, Mt Laurel and other areas of unincorporated north Shelby County near the intersection of U.S. 280 and County Road 41, while also adding an ad valorem (property) tax, which it currently doesn’t have.

Those are big changes that some will be on board with to support improving the local schools, while some won’t agree with being annexed into the city or the property tax.

If it is feasible, then it is the right thing to do.

Walking through Chelsea High School right now is like an ant colony. Students are shoulder-to-shoulder in the hallways walking to classes in a school that was built as a 4A or 5A level school.

Chelsea, however, is now a 6A school and heading toward being a 7A school sooner rather than later.

Shelby County Schools likely won’t have the means to build a new school or any new facilities anytime soon unless they somehow work with the county for a major project.

Starting a city school system has its benefits and they are benefits Chelsea schools desperately need, including pay raises for teachers, bonuses, new facilities and more funding, but it is not cheap and it is not easy.

Chelsea has shown what is possible with its 1 cent sales tax increase approved in 2019. Since it passed, the city has donated $25,000 to each school at least once a year and has helped build a new weight room for the high school.

More upgrades and improvements would come as a city school system, but there are also many obstacles in the way.

Finding the right leadership, having community support and working together for the better of the kids and teachers is the main goal.

If it’s feasible, it’s the right move to make and another one that would help one of the fastest growing cities in the state continue to thrive.