Jacksonville considering annexation
by Brian Anderson
Sep 19, 2013 | 3336 views |  0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Jacksonville City Council is considering annexing a subdivision south of the city limits, a proposal that’s prompted concern from the Calhoun County Board of Education that the city might wind up taking away some of its students.

Jacksonville officials say the county board has nothing to worry about.

Mark Jones, president of the council, said the city has looked into the possibility of absorbing Whites Gap Estates, a subdivision located on Whites Gap Road in an area bordering the city on three sides.

“We’re just in the discussion phases,” said Jones, noting before any action could take place the council would need to advertise and hold a public forum.

The reason the city wants the subdivision is simply convenience, Jones said. Students living in the Whites Gap Estates subdivision already attend Jacksonville public schools.

Jon Paul Campbell, the superintendent of Jacksonville City Schools, said that the subdivision — the only part of the city school district to lie outside city limits — has school bus service.

“That’s been that way since before I was here,” Campbell said.

Jones said the arrangement also predates his time on the council, and doesn’t know why the subdivision is the only area outside the city to bus students to Jacksonville schools.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re trying to get it into city limits,” Jones said. “It just makes sense.”

Typically, students living in areas south of Jacksonville go to either White Plains schools if they live on the east side of Alabama 21, or Weaver on the west side of the highway. Areas north of Alabama 204 are zoned for Pleasant Valley schools.

Annexation talk, however, has caused some concern for members of the Calhoun County Board of Education, who worry extension of Jacksonville’s city limits could run into the county school district, including areas where students attend Alexandria, Weaver, Pleasant Valley and White Plains schools. Calhoun County Superintendent Joe Dyar said loss of enrollment would cause the county schools to lose funding from the state.

“This sitting board is not going to let that happen,” Dyar said Wednesday.

Dyar said he’s also concerned new district lines would uproot the lives of families in those areas and disrupt students’ education.

“These are families that have been going to these schools their whole lives,” Dyar said. “And now suddenly they have to go to a new school.”

But Jones said the board’s fears are unfounded. They’re based, he said, on a rumor that Jacksonville wanted to extend its city limits to match its the police jurisdiction boundary, which extends three miles beyond the city limit.

“There’s no truth to that,” Jones said.

Campbell said the Jacksonville Board of Education isn’t involved in any discussions about extending city limits, but he doesn’t see any advantage of extending the school district lines.

“Students in those areas would have the option to go to Jacksonville schools,” Campbell said. “But I don’t know if that would be an advantage or disadvantage.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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