On Thursday, during a called meeting, the board adopted a resolution for the issuance of bond warrants in order to fund construction of a school facility.
“That community was told a school would be forthcoming and this board would take care of it, and that simply did not happen,” said Walker County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Adkins. “We have a moral obligation to follow through with the empty promises of the past.”
He said that 10 years ago, the school board agreed to build a new high school in Cordova and an elementary school in Sumiton. An administration change in the school board caused a halt the Cordova project and basically a cancellation of plans for a new Sumiton school, he added.
However, the new Cordova High School was finally completed, and Adkins said part of the original bond funds was shifted to the building of a new gym at Curry High School. Some of the funding was also used to build ball parks.
Board member Sonia Waid said a former superintendent had promised to use part of the original bond money to build a new wing of classrooms at Sumiton Elementary; Waid said most of those funds were used instead for ball fields at three high schools.
Waid, whose district includes Sumiton schools, said there is $150,000 left in the original bond, which included more than $20 million for capital outlay (meant for building structures).
“These funds are being closely and frugally accounted for, as they will be utilized for the day-to-day construction and structural maintenance of all properties in the school system,” Waid said.
Thursday’s issuance of bond warrants will provide $12 million to be used strictly for building an elementary school in Sumiton, Waid said.
“The reason I’m protective of the $12 million is because I feel the Sumiton community was promised the funds for a school on multiple occasions, when funding was available, only to see that funding diverted to other projects,” Waid said. “It does feel to many in the Sumiton community that these funds were essentially stolen from our children after they had been promised. The current members of the board are working diligently to assure that such a perception is not conveyed toward us.”
The bond renewal will somewhat increase the school system’s capital outlay.
“The board is working to assure the renewal of these bonds does not have a significant impact on the system’s annual financial outlay, or will not increase the debt burden to a board ... which was struggling financially before the new superintendent took office,” Waid said.
Paige Skalnik, principal of Sumiton Elementary Middle School, said teachers at her school are excited about the school board’s action.
“There are a lot of conversations going on here about it,” she said. “We operate well over here. We’re not victims by any stretch, but it certainly is good to know they’re paying attention and they know what our needs are.”
Skalnik’s school has more than 900 students, in a facility built for 600 students. Seventeen portable trailers and modular buildings are set up as classrooms to accommodate the overcrowding.
The board is currently searching for a flat, level piece of property in Sumiton “that someone is willing to give us,” Adkins said with a laugh. He said the board does not want to spend a big chunk of the money in preparing land for construction.
In other business, the board:
• approved field trips for Sipsey Junior High kindergarteners to go to the Atlanta Zoo and for the Oakman High School football team to go to Six Flags over Georgia
• accepted the financial statement and bank reconciliation for February
The next regular board meeting is April 12 at 4:30 p.m.