(TNS) -- ATHENS — Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk plans to ask the school board to decide Monday night whether to proceed with the first phase of a proposed Academic Center for Excellence.
The plan would create the school district’s second career technical center.
Sugar Creek Elementary School in West Limestone is scheduled to open this fall and will house K-5 students from Owens Elementary and West Limestone School, which is now K-12. Owens would re-open as the Academic Center for Excellence, or ACE, under the draft plan Sisk presented to the school board at a work session last week.
The school district needs to repurpose Owens to protect its investment in the building and keep it from becoming an eyesore if it’s vacant, Sisk said. “I’m saying, let’s give it more life.”
The school system’s Career Technical Center is crowded, he said, and even with the construction of the new building, 12 portables are still being used.
The district will be able to eliminate portable classrooms if a number of programs are shifted from the Career Tech Center to ACE, Sisk said. He would like to shift to ACE programs in pre-engineering, information technology, graphic design, and teaching and learning. Additionally, Sisk wants to move the Success Academy, programs for at-risk students and the existing virtual school to the new facility.
“I’ve been trying to do ACE for five years,” Sisk said at the work session. “I brought you a way to pay for it."
The superintendent is also asking the board to enter into a five-year contract with Connections Academy, which operates online school programs through contracts with charter schools or school districts in about two dozen states.
Revenue from Connections Academy — the company guarantees a minimum of $230,000 a year for five years, regardless of student enrollment or state funding — would offset the costs of ACE, Sisk said. Students outside Limestone County who enroll in the program would become part of an Alabama Connections Academy.
The academy, in partnership with the school district, would serve those students. In turn, Connections Academy would receive “a large percentage” of the average daily enrollment funding for those students, Sisk said. State per-pupil funding is based on average daily enrollment.
Without revenue from the contract, “We can’t do ACE,” Sisk said.
Bret McGil, who represents District 2 on the board, said he favors pursuing the Connections funding but waiting a year before launching ACE. “All we’re doing is slowing you down,” he told Sisk.
“Hands down, we have to go after the Connections money, but I would like to slow down and make sure it’s the direction we want to go,” said District 5 board member Bradley Young.
If the district creates a second career-tech center at ACE, the state would pay for a second director and a counselor at a cost of $170,000 a year, Sisk said.
Sisk's draft plan shows the district’s cost for ACE’s first phase would be about $260,000, including utilities, transportation, a receptionist/bookkeeper and custodian. The Connections Academy revenue and state reimbursement for some transportation costs would cover those expenses, Sisk said, and $40,000 needed to paint Owens’ hallways and classrooms would come from routine maintenance funding.
Sisk said he would ask for approval of a second phase, which includes launching an advanced agriculture program, and a third phase to start a performing arts program, only if money becomes available from grants and financial commitments from businesses.
©2017 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.