Hallmark: Rumors of school closings unfounded

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Marengo County Schools Superintendent Luke Hallmark responded Tuesday to rumors circulating about the potential closure of two MCS institutions.

“We have no plans to close John Essex or Amelia Love Johnson,” Hallmark stated.

The Marengo County superintendent could scarcely speculate as to how such hearsay began making its way around the county, but did point to the fact that such rumors can spark from state department recommendations and the like.

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“Each school system is unique and different,” Hallmark said, offering that recommendations from a state level cannot always take into account the specific hurdles and challenges facing a specific school system. “We’ve got kids all around the county and it would be very difficult for us to bus kids from each end of the county.”

The closure of John Essex High School, which boasts approximately 200 pupils between kindergarten and 12th grade, would leave students remaining in the county system with the option of attending A.L. Johnson, Sweet Water or Marengo. Busing those students to the nearest county school offers nightmarish ramifications for the MCS system, prospects that are made even dimmer were ALJ to close as well. The Thomaston based A.L. Johnson School currently has just under 250 students.

Other public systems within the Marengo County borders include Demopolis City Schools and Linden City Schools.

Buzz about the potential of closing smaller schools has gained steam in recent weeks as Coffeeville recently learned its fate that its last official act as a high school will come with its May 2011 graduation. Other rural schools state wide have also faced the prospect of closing their doors of late as Butler County institution McKenzie has been forced to entertain the notion that its doors may soon be closed for good while its students merge with Georgiana schools.

In the era of proration and economic downturn, such circumstances are not uncommon.

“It’s just a sign of the times,” Hallmark said. “The economy has been so hard these past few years. We rely so much on sales tax and income tax to support education and we have seen a decline in those two education source funds.”

Despite the economic difficulties, Marengo County Schools have thus far managed to avoid consolidation or closure, serving some 1,500 students systemwide.