Chambers Co. School District surveying county for ideas on school consolidation

Published 5:25 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

LaFAYETTE — An online video posted approximately ten days ago by the Chambers County School District is getting an extraordinary number of views. Through Wednesday of this week, it had gotten a total of 20,560 views.

“It’s been live a week-and-a-half now, and has gotten a wonderful response,” Superintendent Dr. Kelli Hodge said at Wednesday afternoon’s monthly meeting of the Chambers County Board of Education. “We can’t tell if that many people watched all of it or if some people watched it more than once, but 20,560 is an unheard of number for anything we’ve posted.”

That kind of interest is generated by the contentious topic of school consolidation. The video has served as a survey to get an idea of the public’s feeling on what a consolidation would like for the Chambers County School System.

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Hodge said the purpose of the video was to get people thinking about the subject.

“We don’t have all the answers,” she said. “The survey is being finalized, and we should have the results by Monday. I am excited that the wheels are turning and about the feedback we are getting.”

The survey results will be posted on the school district’s website, and paper copies will be available at the central office and at other public places in the county.

The next step will be to have two town hall-type meetings, one in Valley and one in LaFayette. They will be taking place in November, and the public is urged to participate in them and to voice their feelings on the possibility of school consolidation in Chambers County.

The Valley meeting will likely be held at the Community Center and the LaFayette meeting at the ALFA building on the east side of town.

“These are going to be pretty important meetings,” said Board Member Jeffery Finch. “People need to know well in advance where they will be.”

Hodge said she favored the Community Center and the ALFA building to generate maximum participation by the citizens.

“Sometimes having an event on a school campus turns people off,” she said.

The video was produced by Pitts Media of Birmingham, Alabama and the online survey is being compiled by Cooperative Strategies. The town hall meetings will be conducted by HPM, a project management firm with offices in Auburn, Birmingham and Mobile. Their final data will include projections on the projected demographics for Chambers County in the coming decade.

School consolidation is one issue being proposed for discussion. Others include school safety, technology and capital improvements. A facilities assessment is underway to determine the present condition of all existing buildings. This assessment will include cost estimates for repairs and renovations.

The assessment, said Dr. Hodge, can be an important factor shaping the future of Chambers County.

“It can impact our community in terms of how we shape our economy, growth and quality of life for years to come,” she said. “That’s why we need total participation on the part of everyone.”