2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Education

Districts open new schools, become their own amid population growth

Melanie LeCroy
Lifestyle Editor
melanie@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 12/30/22

With the completion of each new subdivision across the county inevitably comes more families and children. Lots of children.To respond to the ever-expanding student population, Baldwin County Schools …

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2022: Gulf Coast Media's year in review - Education

Districts open new schools, become their own amid population growth

Posted

With the completion of each new subdivision across the county inevitably comes more families and children. Lots of children.

To respond to the ever-expanding student population, Baldwin County Schools continued to add buildings and classrooms while the city of Orange Beach cut the ribbon on its own school district and Gulf Shores City Schools receive statewide accolades.

New schools

Baldwin County Public Schools continued its pay-as-you-go school construction program.

Since the start of 2022, the system has opened one new school, completed two additions and broken ground on another project.

Stonebridge Elementary School opened in the Spanish Fort feeder pattern at the start of the 2022-2023 school year. The K-6 school took pressure off Spanish Fort Elementary and Rockwell Elementary.

The state-of-the-art facility includes over 132,000 square feet with 56 classrooms, two pre-K classrooms, two STEM classrooms, six special needs classrooms and two Pathway classrooms. The spacious cafetorium has seating for 480 and includes a stage. The gymnasium has seating for 450. Additional spaces for students include a chorus room, band room and a media center. The facility has a campus-wide surveillance system and a storm shelter.

School additions

Baldwin County celebrated the opening of two school additions built to take the pressure off crowded campuses.

In February 2022, J. Larry Newton Elementary cut the ribbon on a 24,000-square-foot addition that includes 20 classrooms.

The second county district addition was the Freshman Experience at Daphne High School. The new wing has over 38,000 square feet that includes 22 classrooms, two science rooms, art room, conference room, administrative area and two teacher work rooms. This is the second facility to open in the district. The concept is designed to ease ninth grade students into the high school and provide more space for the growing school population.

Gulf Shores City Schools celebrated the opening of the STEAM Collaborative Learning Center at Gulf Shores Elementary School this year. The 10,000-square-foot addition added six flexible classrooms and two fully equipped STEAM labs to the school as well as innovative break-out spaces, outdoor learning area and three aquariums.

Under construction

The Gulf Shores City School system broke ground on an eight-room addition to the Gulf Shores Elementary School that is expected to be complete for the 2023-2024 school year. The city has budgeted $5.9 million for the project. The elementary school has increased by 200 students since the city schools split from the county district to form its own system in 2019.

The system is also pushing forward with plans to build a new Gulf Shores High School on a 200-acre site located at Coastal Gateway and Foley Beach Express. The current plan would have the state-of-the-art facility to open for the fall 2025 school year.

The new high school building would allow a shift in use for the current school buildings. The master plan calls for the middle school to move into the old high school and the elementary school to expand into the current middle school building.

Baldwin County Public Schools broke ground on its new $73 million career tech high school in Loxley just north of I-10 this year. Site work is underway on the 50-acre site with construction on the school set to begin in the summer. The Baldwin Preparatory Academy will accept students in grades 10-12 from across Baldwin County. The school is expected to open for the 2024 school year.

New city school system

Orange Beach city officials announced they would break away from Baldwin County Public Schools in March to form Orange Beach City Schools. The split agreement was signed by Orange Beach and Baldwin County on May 23 and the separation took place July 1. Orange Beach City Schools opened their doors to students for the 2022-2023 school year making it Baldwin County's second city school system and third overall.

3-mil tax around Baldwin County

This year, Daphne joined three other Baldwin County cities to vote in a 3-mil tax to provide alternative school funding. In September 2019, voters in Fairhope and Spanish Fort approved their own 3-mil tax. In 2021, Robertsdale followed. The 3-mil tax means extra money stays in those city's schools to help students. It allows local educators to put programs in place that state and federal funding doesn't support or in some cases doesn't allow.

Making the grade

In its first year of ranking, Gulf Shores High School is the only Baldwin County high school to receive an A on report cards released by the Alabama Department of Education this year. The city district as a whole received an A.

2022 school achievements

  • Elberta Elementary School was named a 2022 National Blue Ribbon School
  • Orange Beach Middle School received the A+ College Ready's School of Excellence Award
  • The first class of seniors graduated from Orange Beach High School (OBHS) in May 2022. They were also the last class to graduate from OBHS under the Baldwin County Public School system.
  • Daphne Elementary School counselor Rebecca Johnson was named the Alabama School Counselor of the Year by the Alabama School Counselor Association in May 2022.
  • Fairhope High School has earned the No. 10 spot in USNews.com's 2022 list of top high schools in Alabama.

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