Lawrence school board votes 4-1 to close R.A. Hubbard

·4 min read

Dec. 7—MOULTON — With a 4-1 vote Monday night, the Lawrence County Board of Education approved a plan to close R.A. Hubbard High School in North Courtland and bus its students to schools in Hatton and Caddo.

A federal judge is expected to hold multiple hearings before deciding what action to take on the board's vote. If the judge approves the board's action, the school in North Courtland could permanently close its doors in May.

"Was there ever a discussion on how to keep R.A. Hubbard open or improve the school?" said J.E. Turnbore, president of the Lawrence County Chapter of the NAACP, who advocated to keep the predominantly Black school open. "No board member came to me asking for our input. How can something so morally wrong be so legally right?"

Consistently low state test scores and a high cost per pupil were two leading factors that led to the closing of R.A. Hubbard, a grades 7-12 school. With about 24.5 students per grade, R.A. Hubbard offers few electives.

According to Lawrence County school data, the per-pupil cost for R.A. Hubbard's 147 students is $18,030 this year, seventh highest in the state. That amount includes local, state and federal funding.

The local funding per student is more than twice as high at R.A. Hubbard than at any of the other three high schools in the county. Board attorney Christopher Pape said the system is paying $3,525 for each Hubbard student. The cost at Hatton High is $1,461; East Lawrence High is $1,377; and Lawrence County High is $1,197.

Hazlewood Elementary students will not be affected in the proposed closure. The Town Creek school is a feeder school for R.A. Hubbard.

"It was a hard night. It was a hard decision," said Superintendent Jon Bret Smith. "I respect anybody who wants the best for R.A. Hubbard students. The board made the right choice."

More than a dozen people, including Turnbore, spoke before the board vote to support keeping R.A. Hubbard open. The board had asked for community feedback beginning Nov. 1 after the proposal to close the school was presented to the board. Pape said 17 responses were received, and two of them were blank.

Christine Garner, District 1 board member who represents R.A. Hubbard, said she was disappointed but not surprised with the vote. She made a motion to table the closure vote, but it died for not receiving a second.

District 2 board member Gary Bradford made the motion to vote on the issue. District 5 board member Reta Waldrep seconded the motion.

After the vote, Garner, who cast the only vote to keep R.A. Hubbard open, said she wasn't feeling well and left the meeting.

Garner and Turnbore said some of the affected students may have to forgo extracurricular activities because of the lack of transportation from their homes in the northern part of the county to new schools.

"Busing our students 25 to 30 minutes one way is not solving any desegregation issues," Turnbore said. "It's not good for the kids."

Under the school system's proposal, R.A. Hubbard students who live in the previous Hazlewood High zone would go to Hatton High and the remaining students would attend East Lawrence Middle or East Lawrence High, both in Caddo.

Smith said the board will put together a plan to help the incoming students become acclimated with their new schools.

Pape said he plans to file a federal court motion by Dec. 17 seeking approval to close Hubbard.

In 2009, the school board voted to close Hazlewood High School and consolidated it with R.A. Hubbard. School records show enrollment dropped from 323 in 2009-2010 to a low of 127 in 2016-2017.

Statistics presented during a board meeting Nov. 1 showed Hubbard's student body is 70.55% Black and 29.45% non-Black. East Lawrence Middle School is 8% Black, East Lawrence High is 9.81% Black and Hatton High is 1.41% Black. After the proposed moves, those percentages will be 11.75%, 18.34% and 9.31% respectively.

R.A. Hubbard was labeled "failing" in 2018-2019 because the academic performance of students as measured by standardized tests was in the bottom 6% of schools statewide in three of the most recent five years.

In testing last spring, 33.3% of Hubbard students were deemed proficient in English on the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program and only 6.85% were proficient in math. or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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