New information required at registration

By Bruce Sims
Contributing Writer
Posted 6/20/07

Knowledge might be power, but information can be downright valuable; at least when it comes to planning where to put new schools, deciding on existing school expansions or to looking into the Baldwin County School System’s computerized crystal …

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New information required at registration


Knowledge might be power, but information can be downright valuable; at least when it comes to planning where to put new schools, deciding on existing school expansions or to looking into the Baldwin County School System’s computerized crystal balls and projecting what the future will bring as the population continues to grow.

“During the upcoming registration each school’s registrar will be asking parents to supply the school system with their E-911 address, e-mail addresses, for both home and work, as well as check the box regarding the type of dwelling they currently live in,” said JaNay Dawson, an assistant superintendent of education for the Baldwin County School Board.

Dawson said the system wasn’t trying to pry into anyone’s private business.

“The information we’re asking for will do two things,” she said. “First, the e-mail addresses will help us notify parents in case of an emergency, such as a county-wide school dismissal in the event of severe weather.”

Secondly, she added, by knowing the type of dwelling the students reside in, as well as the location of that dwelling, the Geographic Information System Department will be able to develop a baseline to plan, as well as make future projections from.

With such information in hand the superintendent, board of education members, along with recommendations from various department heads, will then be able to decide where the next school expansions need to take place.

Mike Keating, director of Planning and Construction Management, and Bill Harbour, the school system’s GIS coordinator, say such data will enable their computer models to be much more precise.

“At the present we’re seeing a lot of growth along the Eastern Shore and in South Baldwin,” Keating said. “The numbers indicate that Baldwin County is growing at a rate of four to five percent each year. The numbers we’re getting from the Island and North Baldwin, however, are rather flat at the moment.”

Following Gov. Bob Riley’s recent announcement that German steelmaker ThyssenKrupp would be locating to Mt. Vernon, which is in North Mobile County Keating said he felt the numbers in the north end of the county could start to change alone the Alabama Highway 225 corridor.

“In addition to a gradual increase in population in this area regarding general school expansions, we will also need to make a decision about the county’s technical schools,” he said. “We’re going to have to decide on whether to build a brand new technical high school, to expand the existing sites, or add wings at several high schools where the tech school curriculum would be taught.”

Students with technical training will be in high demand, as economic developers are wondering where they’ll find enough trained workers to meet the steelmaker needs, as well as the firms that will construct the massive plant.

“Because of the plant’s proximity to North Baldwin we want to have the best information that we can collect so that we might plan accordingly,” Keating said.

At the present time the school system’s student population is approximately 27,000. Within five years that figure is expected to move past the 30,000 mark.

Having current data to base such decisions as where a school will be built, or and expansion will take place, can be invaluable, said Harbour.

“At registration a parent will be asked if they live in a single family dwelling, a condo, an apartment or a mobile home,” he said. “They will also be asked for their E-911 address, as this will help our mapping department immeasurably.”

Harbour was quick to point out that the information the registrars gathered from the parents would be secure.

“When we create a map we might place a dot where a student lives, but that dot wouldn’t indicate who the student is, what grade they are in, whether they are a boy a girl, or anything of that nature,” he said.

With such a map the school system’s planners will be able to spot trends, growth patterns as well as make more accurate projections.

“For instance,” Harbour said, “by knowing how many students come from an apartment complex in a particular area; we can project the number of students that will come from a similar complex when that project is presented to the county’s planning commission. The same would hold true for the single family dwelling, mobile homes, and condos.”

Gaining information from municipalities about future building projects within their various corporate limits is something the school system could really use.

“You see, each type of dwelling calls for a different formula to make calculations from,” Harbour said. “By knowing where these projects are going in, what type of units are being built and data such as that would help us immeasurably. It would allow us to get a handle on the demographics that come with such projects.”

Keating said several projects, which include wings for both Silverhill and Summerdale Elementary Schools, as well as an expansion at Foley High, and Foley Elementary School, are currently underway.

Due to growth in the Central Baldwin area Robertsdale High opened a new wing this past school year.

“Our objective is to be as scientific and objective as possible,” Keating said. “Having the additional information that comes from registration will help us meet that objective.”