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22 June 2007
Record Education Bond Approved

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

Projected site for Ramona Wood annex. Photo: Anita Kilgore

The Alabama State Legislature’s recent $1,070,585,022 school construction bond issue will give Jacksonville High School and Jacksonville State University’s College of Education a little extra elbow room.

JSU President William Meehan plans to ask the Board of Trustees to set aside most of the nearly $4.6 million JSU will get from the bond for a planned annex on Ramona Wood Hall.

Ramona Wood, which currently houses the offices for the College of Education and Professional Studies as well as the education degree programs, is overcrowded, with many education classes being held in other buildings on campus.

“Additional space is needed to support education programs offered in the College of Education and Professional Studies,” said Dr. Cynthia Harper, dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. “While the current facility is in excellent condition and is equipped with state of the art technology to support teaching, additional classrooms and office space for faculty are needed.”

Plans for the annex include a large auditorium/lecture hall, conference room, classrooms, a computer lab equipped with 30 computers, small group-study rooms and a student lounge.

“Present plans also include moving the Instructional Services Unit to the annex. Of course we anticipate that all new classrooms will be equipped with ‘smart technology,’” said Harper.

Meehan estimates the project will cost between $9 and $10 million, so the bond will cover a significant amount of the cost, but will not cover the total amount. An additional $500,000 has been donated by area businesses.

“We hoped it would be more,” said Dr. Meehan of the $4,575,928 the university will receive through the bond issue. “There will be an opportunity. There is another pool of $55 million in there for education purposes, so we’re hoping to get some more.”

When the rest of the funding is in place and construction is ready to commence on the project, the new annex will be located where Abercrombie Hall once stood. Abercrombie was leveled during the summer of 2005 in preparation of the project.

“From a personal perspective, this is the most exciting news the college has received in my 32 years of service at JSU. We have a rich heritage in teacher education that dates back to JSU’s foundational beginnings in 1883. Teacher preparation continues to be one of the most important professional programs that JSU offers at both the undergraduate and graduate levels,” said Harper. “This new facility will demonstrate to our candidates and to the public that JSU believes in and recognizes the important role that teachers have in helping shape the lives and careers of tomorrow’s leaders.”

Jacksonville High School students may also be getting a little more room in the next few years, thanks to the additional funds. There are three possible ways on the table to use the money, but the top priority for Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey is to help the overcrowded high school.

“On the capital plan, you see three major projects. One is a new school. There’s not nearly enough money here to build a new school,” said Mackey. “If the board decides what they really want to go after is a new school, then what we’re getting, $1.6 million, is about 20 percent of the cost, so we’ll have to go to the taxpayers for a referendum for the other 80 percent. I don’t know if we’re going to try to do that or not.”

The other option to ease crowding at JHS is to add a seventh and eighth grade wing. Mackey estimates the wing would cost about $1 million, but if the board decides to go in that direction, he hopes to find a little extra money to add another gymnasium at Kitty Stone Elementary as well.

“If we could only do one project, we would do the wing at the high school because that’s where we’re most overcrowded and that’s where we need the relief the most,” said Mackey, adding “I really want to try to get a gym out of this."

If the board can find the money, they may build the new gym across Francis Street from the school. Of course, the historic gym currently at Kitty Stone would remain; the new one would simply give them more space for various programs.

No matter the ultimate decision, it will be a few years before any construction takes place, giving Mackey, the school board and the residents of Jacksonville time to weigh the options and make their decision.

“We don’t really plan on making a draw (on the money) until 2008 and it may even be 2009,” said Mackey, who believes new school construction all over the state will increase construction costs. “We’ll probably begin looking at drawings by at least the winter of 2008.”

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

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