Demopolis one step closer to Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences

Published 4:28 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

On Feb. 6, Demopolis came one step closer to being the location for the proposed Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences (ASHS). 

In her State of the State Address, Gov. Kay Ivey called on the Legislature to fund and locate the school in Demopolis. In the speech, Ivey said the school is among her top legislative priorities for the 2024 session.

The ASHS is part of an initiative that will focus on training students to address the worker shortage in the medical field. The healthcare high school will offer an innovative curriculum for 9th through 12th graders, exposing them to diverse STEM and healthcare opportunities and hands-on clinical training experiences. Discussions on the school began in March 2023.

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“Last year, I introduced the idea of the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences… This school will directly expose young men and women from around Alabama, and particularly rural students, to various healthcare fields,” Ivey said. “And it gives them options. Maybe they want to graduate with a credential to start working a high-wage career immediately, or maybe they want to go to college and become a nurse or maybe even attend medical or dental school. We will now give these students an opportunity and a state-of-the-art school to attend.”

Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins thanked Ivey for her trust in the city and said Demopolis understands the gravity of being home to a statewide, residential high school.

“As we have shown over the past year, the entire city of Demopolis has embraced the proposed Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences,” Collins said. “Along with agreeing to deed the land for the school to the ASHS Foundation, we understand there will be many resources needed to give students of this school the safety and support they need. Our citizens are committed to being guardians to our state’s future healthcare workforce.”

For the first time publicly, Ivey also announced the results of a feasibility study requested by the Alabama Legislature after the school was first proposed last year. Demopolis, the Governor said, is the best location for the school.

“Already, we have received tremendous community support [from Demopolis], and the gold standard of rural healthcare is just a few steps away from the proposed site where these students will learn,” Ivey said, referring to Whitfield Regional Hospital in Demopolis. “And on top of all of this, the feasibility report commissioned by the Legislature last year has once again validated Demopolis as the ideal location for this important school – folks, let’s get this important project done.”

The school came under jeopardy late in 2023 when lawmakers defunded the $31 million set aside for the project during the 2023 session. Later, $500,000 was given to perform a feasibility study to determine if Demopolis was the right location for the school. The feasibility study was conducted in October 2023.

After the address, ASHS Foundation Chairman Rob Pearson applauded Gov. Ivey’s dedication to making the school a reality, pledging his organization’s continued work to serve the school.

“Since the day Gov. Ivey publicly announced the concept of this school – exactly a year ago – and her intention of it being built in Demopolis, we have joined with stakeholders across the state to support the proposed school,” Pearson said. “From the development of this Foundation to working with wonderful people like Dr. Majd Zayzafoon at UAB, to securing funding of $26.4 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, we have made it clear that we take the responsibility seriously.”

On Jan. 17, the ASHS Foundation received funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The project is part of a first-of-its-kind $250 million initiative led by Bloomberg Philanthropies, connecting healthcare and education systems to create new career and technical education high schools in 10 urban and rural communities across the country. The schools will collectively serve nearly 6,000 students at total capacity.

The school is proposed to open in 2026 in Demopolis, Ala., and serve between 85-100 students in each graduating class.