As debates and discussions regarding the four proposed scenarios to restructure the Dothan City School system continue throughout the community, Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards, who developed plans alongside a team of consultants, has developed some viewpoints on the proposals herself.
Edwards said all four options could change somewhat after the DCS School Board votes on a plan in late October or November, but have been designed to save the system roughly $3 to $5 million annually. However, there are some plans that seem more auspicious to her than others.
Scenario 1 is one such favored proposal, due to its systemic style and smooth transitions, which eliminates the middle school system and keeps groups together longer in the early, formative years. She added that middle school is when most children and parents opt for a private education, and student retention rates drop significantly.
The plan features a kindergarten through seventh grade system distributed among schools including Selma Street, Beverlye, Hidden Lake, Carver, Girard Elementary, Girard Middle, Kelly Springs, Slingluff, and Highlands. Eighth and ninth graders would be combined and taught at what is currently Dothan High School, which could also serve as a high school preparatory school. Tenth through twelfth graders would be taught at Northview High School. In this scenario, the central office would locate at what is now Honeysuckle Middle School, and would also combine all of the Pre-Kindergarten classes at the location as opposed to being distributed across town as they are currently.
Edwards said one of the biggest advantages to Scenario 1 is the neighborhood proximity families will have to their allocated school as a result of the rearranged school zones. She said students would no longer have to be transported across town to get to their designated school, saving time for parents shuttling their children and cutting transportation costs for DCS.
Additionally, the plan has fewer transitions from kindergarten to high school, which Edwards said could be beneficial in multiple ways. First, families specifically in the K-7 system have the opportunity to keep their children in the same educational facility. Also, older and younger students can collaborate on projects or programs such as a collaborative reading program in which older students help teach younger students basic reading skills.
“I think this model gives seventh, sixth, and even fifth graders more self-esteem when they can go into a kindergarten class and read to children or work with them and demonstrate good behavior. They will see the younger ones looking up to them and realize it’s their job to be a model student, which I think could also help create good behavior from each student across the board,” Edwards said.
In this scenario, Edwards also mentioned that the savings could be placed directly back into the system for additional educational opportunities and resources such as social workers, school resource officers, and school nurses. Edwards also foresees programs such as foreign language, art, and physical education classes being offered at all grade levels through the extra funding available. She also sees potential for a restructuring of the salary schedule for teachers.
Edwards said Scenario 1 hits on the key academic dilemmas the DCS system is currently facing. Athletically, Scenario 1 would consolidate the two schools to form one high school sports program.
Some Dothan locals believe the consolidation of the rival high schools would take away their separate identities, of which students and graduates are immensely proud. Others consider the consolidation to be athletically advantageous due to the combined talent of the city’s best high school players.
“This plan does allow for activity buses which we would have to work out, but it would help players and those in all extracurricular activities get to and from the school. (For football) you could consider the eight-nine grades a junior varsity and the 10-12 grades a varsity. You know, it’s just an idea and I want to remind people this is a process,” Edwards said.
Edwards said although the plan addresses a majority of the obstacles currently facing students, teachers, and community members, the plan of Scenario 1 is just a draft, and can be changed before it is implemented. She added community input is always welcome and appreciated as the process continues.