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State of Schools updates on education issues

The annual State of the Schools luncheon covering Russellville City and Franklin County schools, as well as Northwest-Shoals Community College, was held Oct. 14 at the A.W. Todd Centre in Russellville.

RCS Superintendent Dr. Heath Grimes reported a $4.4 million general fund balance as of Sept. 30, 2021, up from $3.9 million Sept. 30, 2020. He listed instructional additions to include additional teachers, bilingual aides, math coaches, instructional coaches, summer school, afterschool and social and emotional learning programs with peer helpers.

Grimes also reported capital plan highlights, including such projects as a system-wide LED lighting installation, interior painting at West, RES, RMS and the BOE, installation of new glass entry doors for the West cafeteria, landscaping at West and the BOE, roofing projects at West and RMS, rebuilding the cooling tower at RES and first-grade restroom renovations at West.

Upcoming capital plan projects include a Pre-K parking lot renovation, completion of the RHS addition, career tech renovation and expansion, roof projects, new carpet in the auditorium, replacement of the awnings at RHS and exterior painting at West and RHS.

“I think it’s important that we have this event,” said Grimes. “It shows that education is a priority for our county, and it also holds us accountable.”

For FCS, a primary focus is upgrading building facilities and trying to close the academic gap and attempt to alleviate overcrowding, Franklin County Superintendent Greg Hamilton explained. “One avenue we might consider is restructuring district lines.”

Hamilton received a $10,000 community service grant check from Alabama Rep. Proncey Robertson, who is on the Education Policy Committee, for capital improvements at Tharptown, including finishing work with the ball field, concession stand and other buildings.

“We appreciate the great job educational leadership is doing in Franklin County,” said Robertson, “and we want to continue supporting them in this pursuit. We appreciate the great job the superintendents are doing. There are a number of programs the legislators have sponsored in the last few years, and it’s good to see how those are progressing.”

Northwest-Shoals Community College Interim President Dr. Chris Cox said the local community college has “a lot of good days ahead of us.”

NW-SCC has enrolled 3,443 credit students for the fall 2021 semester, which is an increase of 82 students, or more than two percent, from fall 2020 figures,” said Cox, “with the largest increase in enrollment from students dually enrolled at area high schools, representing a 20 percent increase from fall 2020 to fall 2021.”

In a press conference Sept. 23, NW-SCC and the Alabama Community College System announced they will invest up to $30 million over the next two years on capital improvement projects at NW-SCC.

Further to NW-SCC’s recent statement of intention to bring back athletics to its campuses, Cox said the first programs to return will be baseball and softball. The plan is to add basketball “and hopefully volleyball” in fall 2023.

“It would take about $700,000 per year to run a full sports program,” said Cox, “so we are having to take it in increments so we can make sure we are making choices that are financially sound for the college.”

He added that among the factors that must be considered are student interest and enrollment numbers.

Cox said the college actively promotes dual enrollment options for high school students who are pursuing courses where it properly aligns with their academic goals.

Alabama Rep. Jamie Kiel said he’s appreciative of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce for hosting an event that shines a light on the positive direction the schools in Franklin County are heading.

“Our schools are in great shape,” said Kiel, “and our students are excelling. We have a bright future in Franklin County.”

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Director Cassie Medley said the State of the Schools is in its third year and continuing to grow.

“This event keeps the community, industry and businesses in the know of what students are accomplishing in the classroom, through extracurriculars and in preparation for careers or college through dual enrollment,” Medley said.

“Dr. Chris Cox, Dr. Heath Grimes and Mr. Greg Hamilton, along with each member of their school systems, are to be commended for their tenacity, dedication and leadership in preparing Franklin County students for the future.”

Lunch was provided by the Franklin County Chamber and Joe M. Tucker CPA.

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