Archived Story

BOE re-votes to close EBS

Published 8:59pm Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In a called meeting on Tuesday, the Tallapoosa County School Board re-voted to close Edward Bell School, effective at the end of this school year.

In early March, the board voted 3-1 to close the school, but a lawsuit was filed against the board claiming it did not meet requirements put forth by the Open Meetings Act.

Superintendent Philip Baker said that because of the lawsuit, it was best for the board to have another meeting to vote on the issue.

“In response to litigation, we decided to re-vote,” Baker said. “We had let the press know and the principals and so forth (before the first meeting), but we did not post it on the outside of the courtroom or outside the central office door.”

Board members Randy Anderson, Martin Johnson and Karen White voted for closure, while Matilda Woodyard-Hamilton voted to oppose. Hamilton, who represents Camp Hill, also voted against the move in the first meeting.

Michael Carter abstained from voting.

The decision to close the school will save the county $425,000, Baker said. The announcement comes on the heels of multiple school budget cuts in recent years, including the declaration of 3 percent proration in the Education Trust Fund for fiscal 2011 by Gov. Robert Bentley in February.

“Any time that you close a school, it is very tough because you’re affecting so many people,” Baker said. “You’re affecting teachers, the community and most importantly the students. The schools and churches are the hub of a community, so we know it’s tough.

“But we’ve looked at every angle for over a year to try to find a way to keep the school running, and we’ve just not been able to.”

Upwards of 20 Camp Hill residents and Edward Bell supporters attended the meeting. Mayor Samuel Ellis addressed the board before the vote, urging members to reconsider for the “long-term viability” of the town and for the students.

“There are some kids that go to Edward Bell who are special needs children,” Ellis said. “The teachers at the school are totally engulfed with those kids’ needs and situation. To place them in a different environment would bring hardship on them.”

Baker said he expects to know more next week about the future of most of the faculty members and students at Edward Bell.

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