Councill Middle School

Siri Hedreen / The Outlook

Councill School educated Dadeville's Black students before desegregation and most recently served as a middle school. Tallapoosa County Schools has since folded Dadeville's middle school students into the high school and currently uses the Councill Middle School campus for its technology department.

Earlier this spring Tallapoosa County Schools had its principal shuffle, and now new superintendent Ray Porter is entertaining a property shuffle.

The Tallapoosa County Board of Education tossed around the idea at Thursday's work session, with Porter resolving to "put together some numbers" to assess turning Councill Middle School over to Dadeville Parks and Recreation, while moving the central office to the old Department of Human Resources (DHR) building on Broadnax Street.

The Councill school building, most recently a middle school, served Dadeville's Black students before desegregation in the '60s. Tallapoosa County Schools still owns the campus and uses it to store technology equipment and hold professional development classes.

In the past the board has entertained proposing a trade with the town, swapping Councill Middle School for the Dadeville Rec Center. However, Porter said such a swap would require the board to acquire extra space to move its technology department.

"I want to do that, but the only way to do that would be to have an alternate building because between inventory and the professional development that they do, we have to have a place to house technology."

Instead, Porter raised the possibility Thursday of buying 125 North Broadnax Street for its central office, allowing the technology department to move into the current central office on East Columbus Street. Tallapoosa County sold the Broadnax building earlier this year after moving its DHR office down Highway 49.

"If that's something the board wants me to get more details on, I'll meet with the group that owns that building and see exactly what it would cost to purchase that building," Porter said.

Board member Michael Carter, who is also Dadeville Area Chamber of Commerce president, was enthusiastic about being on Broadnax Street.

"That's the main driveway when you come into Dadeville and when you see something nice over there, it would mean a lot to me," Carter said, adding the revitalization of downtown Dadeville is a "community effort."

"I'd personally be all for looking into that possibility," he said.

While Thursday was not the first time the board had discussed purchasing the DHR building, circumstances have changed now that a nationwide scarcity of building materials has caused construction prices to skyrocket.

"It wasn't as attractive (before) because we had some immediate building projects that we wanted to move on," Porter said. "But right now, a gym project that would've cost $4 million would now cost over $6 million if we built today."

If the board buys the Broadnax Street building, the air conditioning could be replaced using federal ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) II funds at "no cost to the board," Porter said. The federal government awarded the second round of ESSER funds earlier this year for pandemic-related expenditures, including any upgrade that improves the air quality of school buildings.

"That makes it more attractive, and then we can do what (Carter is) talking about — swap the city buildings, put tech in here and move the board up there," Porter said. "And that's a viable option that's something for the board to discuss."

Meanwhile, the board discussed the possibilities for Councill Middle School under Dadeville Parks and Rec.

"Seems to me it has more potential for them than for us," board president Carla Talton said. "And it's almost like it's a white elephant for us to maintain."

Several community members have expressed interest in the space, either by renting it or as an agreement with the town. Bobby Hill, founder of film and theater nonprofit 3 Hilltop ACTs, has been eyeing Councill Middle School as a teaching and production space. Hill and Kurt Pfitzner, president of local artist group Everything's Art, had both approached the board of education about using the space.

Carter brought up Hill's proposal Thursday by suggesting the city of Dadeville turn part of Councill Middle School into a start-up business incubator. 

"For Bobby Hill to be able to go over there and have a business and work in his community and we'd be a part of that — then we're just recruiting," Carter said.

"For us it's a chance to infuse something in the rec department and help our students do something after 3 o'clock," Porter said. "That's the way I look at it."

The Tallapoosa County Board of Education will hold its next regular meeting Monday at 5 p.m. At present, building swaps and purchases are still in the discussion phase and are unlikely to be voted upon in the next meeting.

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