Leader Blues

Friday, August 08, 2008

TOP STORY > >Austin hopes to be chosen for new school

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

The Cabot School Board is expected to decide the location of an $11.3 million elementary school by Oct. 1, and Austin is one of four locations being considered.

Almost a decade ago when the Cabot School District was looking for land to build an elementary school, residents and city officials made it clear they wanted it in Austin.

The town would grow if they had a school for young children, they said. Houses are built near schools and businesses are built near houses. But the school was built in the Magness Creek subdivision on the west side of Cabot.

Then last year, Stagecoach Elementary opened on the east side of Cabot.

Now city officials in Austin have a different argument. Austin is growing with hundreds of new homes either built, under construction or planned.

The children are already there, so Austin needs an elementary school.

To make that point clear to the school board that will decide on the location of the school needed to give relief to Magness Creek Elementary and Northside Elementary, the city will present the school board with a petition signed by 200 Austin residents.

Dr. Tony Thurman, superintendent of Cabot School District, attended the July meeting of Austin City Council but did not speak except to assure Mayor Bernie Chamberlain that school district officials are very aware that Austin wants the new school.

“We’ve got a lot of kids now and the parents don’t want to have to drive all over everywhere to get them to school,” Chamberlain said this week in a phone interview.

“Ward has one, and Cabot has how many?” she said. “Now that we have the children, it’s our turn.”

There are eight elementary schools in the Cabot School District with the following enrollments: Central, 369; Eastside, 501; Westside, 428; Northside, 453; Southside, 444; Magness Creek, 535; Stagecoach, 515; and Ward Central, 542.

Assistant Supt. Jim Dalton said the optimum number of students in each school is 450 to 500.

The schools on the east side of the district were becoming overcrowded until Stagecoach opened, he said.

Now another school is needed on the west side of the district, and the property the district is looking at in Austin would meet the district’s need.

Dalton would not disclose the locations of the other properties being considered, but he did verify that he has spoken many times with Chamberlain about 16 acres located near the city’s new fire station on W. Main or Ed Haymes Road as it was known before it was annexed into the city.

Chamberlain is visiting family members in Pennsylvania this week, and Dalton said he had assured her no decision would be made until she returns next week.

The property in Austin the school district is considering buying is owned by James and Dorothy Fulton and is not part of a subdivision.

Dorothy Fulton said she had heard nothing from the school district since spring, when the district approached them about the possibility of selling.