News from the Tennessee Valley State, Local and National news
FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2007

Morgan County board splits Priceville high into 2 schools

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

Just six years after splitting off from Brewer High, Priceville High School became two schools on one campus Thursday night.

The Morgan County Board of Education voted to split Priceville into a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade middle school and a grades 9-12 high school at its monthly meeting.

Superintendent Bob Balch said he recommended the split for several reasons, including:

  • The need to separate the 12- and 13-year-old students from the senior high students.

  • The possibility of providing some advanced classes for middle school students.

  • Creating a sense of pride, as the middle school students now have a school of their own.

    Budget crunch

    With the school system under a budget crunch, board members said it was important that the split didn't cost too much. Balch said the only cost would be that of hiring a middle school principal. The two schools will continue to share some teachers, and operate with one office and one set of accounting books.

    School board President Jimmy Dobbs represents the Priceville district and pushed for the split. This is the third time the board has split a school in this fashion. Danville and West Morgan each operate with a high school and a middle school on the same campus.

    "As far as I'm concerned, this is a very positive move for Priceville," Dobbs said. "It'll allow us to focus on the programs at each school as opposed to being very scattered. Of course, it also separates the two age groups."

    Effects of growth

    Priceville is a growing community, and the schools are feeling the effects of this growth. School officials have talked about the need for another school as soon as the money is available. School board member Tom Earwood pointed out that the town recently approved a new 40-acre development that would have 120 homes on Alabama 67.

    While a high school was first discussed, lately most talk about building a middle school on the same property as the elementary school on Cave Springs Road.

    "This worked well at Danville and West Morgan and, with the way Priceville's growing, we needed to do this," School board member Mike Tarpley said.

    Dobbs said the split into two schools may not only be a first step toward building the new middle school, but a step toward two new schools.

    He said it's possible the school board will be able to build the middle school as early as 2008, and then build a high school in 2011.

    State bond issue

    He said a bond issue the state Legislature approved in its recent session would allow the board to build both and still add classrooms at Lacey's Spring School and West Morgan Elementary. The state bond issue would cover the new classrooms, while local bonds would finance the two new schools. Two existing bonds are set to be retired in 2008, and another in 2011.

    "We have an option on more land (on Cave Springs Road near the elementary school)," Dobbs said. "We need to find out how much land SAACS (Southern Association of Accreditation of College and Schools) requires a high school to have."

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