The board’s decision last week to build the school on George Douthit Drive hinges on the availability of a city-owned lot adjacent to Jacksonville High School. Members of the city government and the school board have said the council planned to donate the property to the schools, but the council has yet to hand the land over.
Now, residents who want Kitty Stone to stay put — in hopes of preserving the character of the town — are appealing to council members.
“It wasn’t the school board’s job to look out for our small-town charm,” said Susan Di Biase. “It is, however, the council's responsibility to look out for our small-town charm.”
About a dozen residents spoke for nearly an hour in opposition of the board’s decision to relocate the school. Generations of people have attended school at its current location, near the city’s Public Square.
Many opponents of moving the school say they worry the old Kitty Stone building will attract vandalism and criminal activity if it is boarded up and left empty, even for a short time.
“They will thrive on an empty building,” said Steve Williams in reference to criminals.
Williams, a bail bondsman, said he has children in the school district.
Also at the meeting were schools superintendent Jon Paul Campbell, and board members Steve Smith and Mike Poe.
Following several comments from people opposing the board’s decision, Poe spoke about the future of Kitty Stone. He proposed that before students move to the new site, city officials and residents could agree on a new purpose for the historic building.
“I am excited at what is going to happen at that campus,” Poe said.
He mentioned the possibility of using the site for a new middle school or as offices for the city or school board. He also said that if the site is repurposed as a middle school, the system might retain parts of the current campus for their sentimental value.
Poe’s comments were met with skepticism by some members of the crowd, but he asked them to be open to new ideas for the property.
“I love Kitty Stone. My kids went there,” Poe said.
Council President Mark Jones said he thought the board did a good job of evaluating the new school construction project before it made the decision. Board members have consulted architects, at least one engineering firm and an accrediting agency as it researched the prospect of building a new school in the city.
But, Jones added, he thinks the board should have decided how Kitty Stone will be used before it decided to build a new elementary school elsewhere.
“I think there is no great answer to this problem,” Jones said.
The council did not vote on the matter Monday.
In other business, the council:
-Held a public hearing regarding an amendment to city code that will change the scheduling for Planning Commission deadlines.
- Awarded a bid for Wholesale Gasoline and Diesel Fuel to the Jack Green Oil Company.
- Authorized Mayor Johnny Smith to sign an agreement for environmental consulting services with Huntsville-based S&ME related to the implementation of a stormwater management program.
- Gave the mayor approval to sign an agreement with Marlan Preuinger to work as the manager of the Jacksonville Farmer’s Market.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.