(See a photo gallery of the school construction progress at the bottom of this page.)
Jan. 16, 2019 Update:
The Orange Beach City Council approved a resolution during its meeting on Tuesday, January 15th to spend $7.2 million to build the Orange Beach Middle/High School Performing Arts Center in conjunction with the Baldwin County Board of Education. The total cost of the Performing Arts Center is $8.6 million with the county school system covering $1.4 million for the band and choir portion of the building. The county school board is scheduled to vote on its portion of the agreement on Thursday, January 17th.
Pensacola-based Sharpe Inc. will construct the 28,000-square-foot Performing Arts Center in addition to the main part of the Orange Beach Middle/High School, per the contract agreement with the school board.
Mayor Tony Kennon said the 700-seat, state-of-the-art facility will be a fantastic addition to the school and city.
“It will be contractually agreed that the City of Orange Beach will have control of the building outside of school hours and will have priority use, second only to high school functions,” Mayor Kennon said during the council meeting. “So it is a really nice building and it will really set us apart in a lot of ways. It gives us a great venue for performances of all types.”
Dec. 18, 2018 Update:
Following a meeting on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018 with Alabama State Superintendent Ed Mackey, Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler and Gulf Shores City Schools board president Kevin Corcoran, held separate press conferences at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively, on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018.
Both systems announced a proposal from Mackey stating that rising kindergarten through 9th graders who live in Orange Beach and outside the corporate limits of Gulf Shores will attend the new Orange Beach Middle/High School at the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Rising 10th graders will have the option to either go to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, and rising 11th graders and 12th graders will stay at Gulf Shores High School. All students living within the city limits of Gulf Shores will attend the new Gulf Shores city schools.
Both systems said they agree to the proposal and after receiving an official letter from Mackey, they will have 10 business days to officially respond. Other details still have to be worked out in coming weeks.
To see each press conference, click on the following links:
- Baldwin County Public Schools press conference: https://www.facebook.com/WKRG.News.5/videos/381385645764544/?fref=gs&dti=1229372153831211
- Gulf Shores City Schools press conference: https://www.facebook.com/MyGulfCoastChamber/videos/2232111697011804/?fref=gs&dti=1229372153831211
Dec. 13, 2018 Update:
Orange Beach parents gathered Wednesday night, Dec. 12th, at the Orange Beach Community Center for a meeting to discuss concerns and questions about the start of middle and high school for the 2019-20 school year, as Gulf Shores splits from the county system.
Mayor Tony Kennon helped facilitate the meeting along with Baldwin County Education Coalition Executive Director Terry Burkle, who has been working with Orange Beach parents and community volunteers to form the Orange Beach Education Enrichment Foundation to support the new school and the existing elementary school. Baldwin County board member Norma Hoots Lynch was present and said she would relay all of the questions and concerns laid out by parents at the meeting - most of which have been discussed over the last year - to the Baldwin County Schools Superindentent Eddie Tyler and the school board.
With the new middle/high school under construction on Canal Road and not scheduled to be complete until summer of 2020, Orange Beach students are expected to be taught in a planned portable village that will be constructed on an empty field across the street from Orange Beach Elementary School.
Due to the lingering split agreement negotiations between Baldwin County Public Schools and the City of Gulf Shores school system, there are still more questions than answers.
Alabama State Superintendent Ed Mackey has given himself a Friday, December 21 deadline to finalize the agreement.
“Once the negotiated agreement is announced on hopefully December 21st,” Mayor Tony Kennon said, “hopefully things will accelerate at that point and by January we’ll have so many more answers. We may have an administrator and a principal and things in place and … in a few more weeks, we’ll be able to really start planning.”
Hearing concerns from parents, the mayor said he was expecting to have rising 7th through 10th graders attending school in Orange Beach and was hopeful that rising 10th graders who want to stay at Gulf Shores High School can do that. That final decision, however, will be up to the state superintendent.
Depending on the superintendent's decision there could be just over 300 middle and high school students in Orange Beach if it includes rising 10th graders.
With athletics, if there is enough students to field a particular team there will be a team. To be a part of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, Orange Beach must play five sports and according to the group Wednesday night, that will happen.
With academics, by state law, the new school is required to offer any course, including AP classes, that the students want to take, regardless of class size.
Various media outlets were in attendance and following are links to the stories:
- WKRG 5: Orange Beach mayor addressing school concerns following construction snag
- FOX 10: Orange Beach parents question leaders, wait for answers about 2019 school year
- NBC 15: Orange Beach students in limbo due to Gulf Shores, Baldwin County school split
- OBA Website: Orange Beach school questions to be presented to county
Nov. 17, 2018 Update:
The City of Orange Beach will be providing childcare for the Mayor’s School Information Meeting on Wednesday, December 12. Childcare will be at the Recreation Center. Parents, please follow this link for more information and to register your child. If you have any questions concerning childcare, please call or email Jonathan Langston at 251-269-4596 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nov. 16, 2018 Update:
On November 15th, the Baldwin County Board of Education unanimously approved the bid for the new Orange Beach Middle/High School. The construction contract went to Sharp, Inc at just over $26 million. The Performing Arts Center, which the city is committed to building, will be bid separately. In a message to Orange Beach parents, board member Norma Hoots Lynch said, “I am very excited about the school and can't wait to see our students enter in 2020. The 2019-2020 school year will be a year of change and anticipation for what's coming... but it will be an excellent academic year because Baldwin County has incredible teachers who will be there for our students - wherever the classroom! Let's celebrate this for our students, staff, city, and county! I can't wait to ring the bell!!!”
Looking ahead, Mayor Tony Kennon is planning a meeting for Orange Beach parents at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, December 12th at the Orange Beach Community Center. All parents are highly encouraged to attend this meeting to share questions and concerns that will be collected and presented to county school staff at a meeting in January. Childcare will be provided.
Update from Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, Nov. 7, 2018:
“(School board member) Norma Lynch and I met with (Baldwin County Schools Superintendent) Eddie Tyler and his staff. They hope to have an agreed upon the number of dollars to build our school by next week's board meeting. If not, then by December 4th. They are talking with contractors now. At this time we are looking to create a portable village, for lack of a better term, located at the elementary school and rec center property housing 7th thru 9th grades for the school year 2019/2020. We hope to be able to have a parent meeting before the Christmas holidays for open discussion and input. Call or text me with questions at 251-747-8282.”
Nov. 2, 2018 Update:
On Thursday, November 1st during a special meeting, the Baldwin County Board of Education did not move forward with the bid for constructing the new Orange Beach Middle/High School after the sole bid received came in over projected estimates. Mayor Tony Kennon said it was not the news anyone wanted to hear. The tight construction timeline in a tight labor market, especially with the Florida Panhandle rebuilding after Hurricane Michael, and a unique architectural design led to the lone high bid. The Baldwin County Board of Education is going to extend the timeline for completed construction until June 1, 2020 and rebid the project in December, Mayor Kennon said. More information will be released in coming weeks.
Oct. 19, 2018: Update from Baldwin County school system:
According to Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler, a special board meeting will be scheduled for Thursday, November 1st to accept a bid for construction.
At the site on Canal Road, activity on the foundation work ramped up this week. The work had been sporadic for weeks due to the water-saturated ground.
Sept. 28, 2018: Update from Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler and staff:
Baldwin County Public Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler, along with his administrative staff, provided the following information about the new Orange Beach Middle/High School. District 5 Baldwin County School Board member Norma Lynch, who represents Orange Beach, as well as Mayor Tony Kennon and Council member Annette Mitchell share thoughts on the new school as well.
Building construction bid deadline set for October 18th
Superintendent Eddie Tyler said a pre-bid meeting for contractors will be held on Tuesday, October 2nd. The bidding deadline was adjusted to Thursday, October 18th at the request of interested contractors. The Baldwin County Board of Education also has a meeting scheduled for October 18th. Tyler said he hopes to have the winning bid on the October 18th agenda and approved that night.
Middle School students on second floor; high school students on first floor
Superintendent Tyler provided the following rundown of the new school:
- The school will cover 130,000 square feet
- The middle school classrooms will be on the second floor and the high school will be on the first floor.
- There will be 28 classrooms.
- 2 special needs classrooms
- 2 middle school science labs
- 1 FACS (Families and Consumers Sciences) lab
- 4 high school science labs
- 1 Drivers Education lab
- Choral Room
- Band Room for 100 students
- Competition gym will seat 736
- Performing Arts will seat 700 (Funded by the City of Orange Beach)
- Indoor dining cafeteria will seat 300
- An outside pavilion/dining area will seat 300.
“It’s a beautiful site,” Superintendent Tyler said. “There’s a lot of talk around the state when I go to meetings about different things about the look of the building and the excitement, so we’re just going to keep that up.”
Two principals planned
Superintendent Tyler said he hoping to advertise this fall for a middle school principal and a high school principal.
“I could go in with just one but I want two to start with,” Tyler said. “I hope to get it to the board to where I can get them approved and get them up and running - whoever it is. It might be somebody from in the system, it might be somebody from outside the system and then create a satellite office to where they can be put to start building a curriculum, can start interviewing personnel and things of that nature.”
School board member Norma Lynch said having a school administrator is the key to getting everything started.
“For me and Mr. Tyler - and I have had this discussion since before I went on the board – the administrator, that instructional leader, is key and when they’re good they find and place the best people where they need to be and keep them there because they want to be there because it’s a great place to work. And I have to tell you since January … we’ve made administrative decisions and I said to him: 'You won’t ever get me to vote yes for a principal that I can’t look at what you’re giving me and feel good about doing it because that to me is the most important position in the building.' And the first one he brought to me, I went to him when the meeting was over and I said, 'I read the resumes and the recommendation letters and the past experience of this person and you picked an incredible person for that position.' I was thrilled to be able to vote for them. I felt that way about every administrator that he’s brought to us.”
“I hold administrators to a high level of expectation and if you’re not cutting it, you need to go. You know if you’re not out there hiring good teachers and expecting excellence in that building, you need to go. And so I know when he goes out to look for this position … I trust that he’s going to look for the best and bring the best to the board.”
Mayor Kennon and City Council member Mitchell said the city will fully support the new school in any way that it can. Tyler said he welcomed the partnership, which began with the city donating the property for the new school.
Classes to start in Fall of 2019
Based on concerns that the new Orange Beach High/Middle School will not be ready for the start of classes in August of 2019, Superintendent Tyler said the state required a back-up plan for such a case and that plan is temporary portables.
“There’s going to be a portable village,” Superintendent Tyler said. “It will have to be architected and engineered and the state building commission has to bless it. It will be on the site of Orange Beach Elementary. For the school to actually open August 1, it’s probably not going to happen because of just where we live. But we feel like it’s going to happen early fall. If the weather was great, we could open August 1 and that’d be fantastic but more realistically we’re looking at probably some time, maybe October, hopefully before Thanksgiving. But the beauty is, they’ll all be right here. They’ll be in your newly created feeder pattern of Orange Beach High School … It’s going to be worked where there’s not going to be any interaction with the elementary school. So the kids that will be in the village will not have any interaction with the Orange Beach Elementary students. We’ll get with (Principal) Moss, we’ll get with the administrators that I will eventually select that will run the middle school/high school and they’ll orchestrate how the students will move around.”
“So there is going to be a village there, maybe 15 portables, something like that and it will stay for just a couple of months and then we’ll transition them to the new high school. And I know portables is a bad word sometimes, especially depends on what part of the county you live in but we’re doing this for a purpose. We could delay it but we feel like the excitement here is we want it sooner than later so let’s move. So we’re going to provide a safe environment, from the weather and everything for learning to continue.”
Separation talks with Gulf Shores City Schools
Concerning the ongoing school system separation negotiations with the City of Gulf Shores, Superintendent Tyler shared the following on Wednesday, September 26th:
“Talks have resumed. We’ve had a meeting. It was an all-day meeting. I don’t think it was a wasted day. It was a good day. It was attorneys from our side and myself … and attorneys from Gulf Shores’ side and their superintendent. And then [Alabama Superintendent Eric] Mackey has a third party group of attorneys that is involved. They are not mediators; they’re just facilitators.”
“So it was an all-day meeting. It was a good meeting. We felt good about it coming out. Like I’m sure they felt good coming out, I’m sure, on some things. But nothing was decided other than to continue to move forward. There are more meetings coming up here, real soon. I’ll be a part of that along with the attorneys, along with Gulf Shores’ folks and the state superintendent’s folks.”
“We’re working real hard to not be the bully. You know because no matter how hard we work, we are a large school system. No matter what we feel like is best for children, not only there but here, it’s going to be perceived by a lot that: ‘Well, it’s just because it’s what you want’; ‘You’re bigger’; ‘You’ve got deeper pockets’; ‘You’re going to push your weight around.’ Well that couldn’t be further from the truth because we stated from the beginning, it’s all about children. We’re excited for them, we just want to make sure the start is good and whatever children are there, that the children are taken care of. …”
“As far as the separation, there are things out there that I understand that you’re being told. I will tell you that it’s been the board’s position from the time we started talking, that juniors and seniors could basically remain in Gulf Shores High School. That’s our position. …That’s been out there publically, 6-8 months, 10 months, you know. If you’re going to be a rising sophomore and junior, you’re going to be a junior and senior next fall at Gulf Shores High School … because there’s not going to be anything here that can really be offered to you based on what you are doing right now, whether it’s a large band or it’s some of those junior- or senior-level courses or it’s athletics that you’re competing in that you’ve been competing in for several years. So it just makes sense to leave those students alone.”
“So we’re not building anything in to include juniors and seniors down here next year. … Unless something changes, that’s our position. Our position has been 7 through 10.”
“The middle school is a no-brainer. … Rising sixth and seventh graders who are going to be seventh and eighth graders at Gulf Shores Middle and live outside of the incorporated city limits (of Gulf Shores) you transplant them here to the new Orange Beach Middle School in the facility and then rising eighth and ninth-graders, who will be ninth and 10th-graders, our board is expecting that they would come here.”
“Now, no matter what we lobby for, the bottom line is the state superintendent of education. … No matter how much we don’t like it, he is the final judge, jury and sentencer. That’s the bottom line. We’ve been doing our legal research on that because you always heard the state superintendent had final say and he does, but he’s wants us to settle our disagreements prior to him having to settle any issues that we couldn’t settle. …So we’re trying to negotiate to where whatever finally lands on his desk, it’s just something we’re going to have to live with and we would say, well I’m sorry we’re at an impasse and it’s got to go to the state superintendent; let him make the call. And that’s the way it would be.”
The state superintendent has set a deadline for the negotiations between Gulf Shores and the county but Tyler said he’s not at liberty to make that date public.
“I couldn’t even tell our board until we went into executive session,” Tyler said. “He doesn’t want this to be a circus and I appreciate that. I wish I could but soon; sooner than later.
Students will be offered same courses as other county schools
Dr. Joyce Woodburn, Dean of Academics for Baldwin County Public Schools, provided information about the new school, what courses will be provided and potential opportunities for the future Orange Beach Middle/High School, which is expected to start with approximately 500 students.
“In the middle school,” Dr. Woodburn said, “all of the typical traditional seventh and eighth grade courses will be offered. You will not miss a beat. Your kids will not miss a beat.”
“With regard to high school, we will offer all courses that are required for graduation based on diploma type. In Baldwin County we have two diploma types. We have an Alabama High School Diploma, 24 credits that you earn over four years. And we have a Baldwin County College Preparatory with Distinction Endorsement diploma and that is 28 credits. So your kids will have everything they need to graduate on time and I’m excited about that.”
Superintendent Tyler added, “It’s going to be based off the registration process … and we’ll know what we’ll need to offer at that school at that time. So it won’t catch us by surprise. We won’t come in and say, ‘I’m sorry we’re not going to offer that; you can't be in honors anymore, you’ll have to go back into regular classes.’ So make sure people know that we base the offering based off of their diploma track and that won’t change.”
High School Courses
"AP courses, Advanced Placement courses will be available,” Dr. Woodburn said. “If there are Orange Beach teachers on the high school staff who are qualified to teach dual enrollment for Coastal Alabama then we will offer dual enrollment courses. We will also use ACCESS Distance Learning courses. ACCESS is online courses provided by the State Department of Education. All of these are offered at Gulf Shores High School right now and they will all be offered at Orange Beach High School next year.”
“And Dual Enrollment is a really good gig because if the teachers teach it at the base school it is free for students. So if they take a dual enrollment course, they earn college credit, 3 college hours. Mostly it’s 3 college hours but sometimes it’s 4 college hours and it’s free. So it’s a wonderful thing.”
What's required to start Career Tech Academies
- Principals fill-out form for creation of a new CT program
- Justify need for program
- Create a budget that reflects total cost of program
- Review of proposal by academic dean and career tech coordinator
- If approved, budgetary planning occurs around Perkins funds.
- Hire an appropriately certified teacher with permission from district
What's required to start an International Baccalaureate Programme
- 2-3 year startup time frame
- Application fee: $4000
- Annual fee for start-up years: $9500 per year (2-3 years)
- Annual fees for teacher training
- Student costs
- Costs for visits to other IB schools
- Curricular decisions must be made (foreign language, science….)
- Algebra I in 8th grade is a MUST
Things to Consider About IB
- Rigorous academic program
- Up to two years of undergraduate college credit can be earned
- Expensive start-up and maintenance costs
- Dual enrollment courses taught on campus are free
- Passing scores on AP exams can yield college credit
- Students have more free time to enjoy extracurricular activities
What's required to start STEM/STEAM Certification process
- STEM: Science/Technology/Engineering/Math
- STEAM: Science/Technology/Engineering/Arts/Math
- AdvancED certification process
- Schools must have been implementing STEM school-wide or a STEM program within a school for at least two years prior to application for STEM Certification.
- Costs involved
CURRENT SCHOOL SYSTEM PROGRAMS
Four Part Academic Plan
Drives all instructional decisions in Baldwin County Public Schools
- Guided Reading (K-12)
- eMints (K-12)
- Scantron Analytics (K-12)
- Curriculum Leaders (Middle and High Schools)
Response to Instruction (RtI) (Assists students who struggle academically.)
- Three tiers of instruction:
- 1st tier: regular classroom instruction
- 2nd tier: 20% of students who struggle with Tier I instruction
- 3rd tier: 5% of students who are not successful after Tier II interventions
New and/or Intervention Programs
- Reading: Fountas and Pinell Phonics Progression (K-3)
- Guided Reading
- Reading Intervention: SPIRE (K-6)
- Math Intervention: Bridges (K-6)
- Dyslexia Intervention: SPIRE
Middle and High Schools:
- Tier II: Language Live
- Tier III: Guided Reading
- Dyslexia Intervention: REWARDS
“We’re over-the-top excited,” Superintendent Tyler said of the new school in Orange Beach. “I’m excited. I consider Mayor Kennon a friend and he can call me and tell me his opinion and I can tell him my opinion. But we both know we’re honest. We might not agree on everything but at the end of the day it’s about children. And so we’ve got a great relationship. We want the partnership.”
Sept. 21, 2018: Update from Baldwin County school system:
The school system is scheduled to open bids on October 11th for the building. The site work package work is complete and the foundation package work has begun.
September 2018: Foundation work is underway.
After a few months of site prep at the future Orange Beach Middle/High School on Canal Road, foundation work is finally underway.
The initial foundation work, which can be seen from the road, is the future classroom section of the school. In mid-October, the county school system is scheduled to open bids for the rest of the project.
May 2018: Orange Beach Middle/High School groundbreaking
On Friday, May 11, 2018 more than 200 people, including city, county and school officials as well as fifth-graders from Orange Beach Elementary School, gathered on 40 city-donated acres in Orange Beach that will soon be home to the new Orange Beach High/Middle School.
The day marked the official groundbreaking and unveiling of the long-awaited school that will be built on the Canal Road site at William Silvers Parkway.
“This is a game changer in my humble opinion for the city of Orange Beach,” Mayor Tony Kennon said during the ceremony. “We have always been a wonderful community and a place to find family values, tradition, safety, protection but with this school, in my humble opinion, it completes us. It makes us that multi-generational community that I think we’re lacking in some ways.”
The city has been working closely with Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Tyler and the county school board to make the school a reality, starting with the donation of 40 acres, which is valued at more than $6 million. The new Orange Beach Middle and High School will include 101,000 square feet of education space and is estimated to cost $16.1 million, which will be funded by Baldwin County Public Schools via its $60 million, 4-year "pay-as-you-go" program. In addition to the main school areas, the city will be funding a performing arts center and future athletic fields on the site.
Mayor Kennon said it is his goal to ensure the school will not only be the best in the county and state but nationally recognized, based on excellence.
“We’re going to accomplish that in a very short period of time because I know the county is going to bring in excellent principals, assistant principals, teachers and support staff that’s going to be there and completely support our image of what excellence is,” Mayor Kennon said. “And I believe that with all of my heart. I want to thank the board members.”
Mayor Kennon also introduced the new school mascot, the Orange Beach Mako Sharks, with the motto “Show Your Teeth.”
“We want to start tradition today,” Mayor Kennon said. “I want these kids to realize this is special.”
Being a part of Baldwin County schools for 42 years, Superintendent Tyler said he’s been part of game changers like this new Orange Beach school before. He noted the opening of Daphne HIgh School in 1989 and the opening of Elberta High last year and how those schools changed Daphne and Elberta for the better.
“This is a true cultural game changer for the City of Orange Beach,” Superintendent Tyler said. “People come here because they know all about you - the sun, the fun, the beach - all of those things. And what I like, you keep it family oriented and that’s hard to do sometimes. But you will be getting a state-of-the-art school … and it’s because of a partnership.”
Tyler went on to say that it was a historic day.
“A lot of people have said this would never happen. Never,” Superintendent Tyler said. “Well, I’ll tell you right now it’s happening, there is no going back. I mean what a fantastic opportunity we have in front of us."
Site work started in May.