January 31, 2013
The Advantage Model Middle School, a magnet school that would be housed in the old Allen Jay Middle School in High Point
, is yet another school construction project running behind schedule, and won't open in August 2013 as planned.
Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green told the Guilford County Board of Education on Thursday, Jan. 24, "That school will be undergoing significant renovations such that it will not be open and available at the start of the 2013-2014 school year." He said that Allen Jay Middle won't be remodeled before January 2014, and perhaps later.
Green on Thursday proposed opening the new magnet program at Welborn Middle Science and Technology Academy in August with 100 fifth graders and no sixth graders, then moving it to the renovated Allen Jay Middle building once renovations there are complete.Guilford County Schools
ran into a buzz saw in December, when it asked for suggestions for names for the proposed magnet school. Many High Pointers, including High Point
city councilmembers, were enraged by even the possibility of taking the Allen Jay name off the school.
The Allen Jay neighborhood is a once-rural unincorporated area, similar to, say, Colfax. It has a long history, and for many years had its own all-grades school. For years, it was part of the old Guilford County school system before being absorbed into the High Point
school system, and then, in 1992, into the consolidated Guilford County Schools
Allen Jay may no longer have an all-grades school or a high school, but its residents are fiercely protective of the schools they have.
The original Allen Jay School, the former Allen Jay High School, Allen Jay Middle School and Allen Jay Elementary School are all named after the Rev. Allen Jay (1831-1910) a prominent Ohio-born Quaker minister who moved to High Point
for eight years in 1867, appointed by the church to minister to Quakers impoverished by the Civil War.
Jay is credited with establishing or recreating schools throughout North Carolina, including the Springfield School of the Springfield Friends Meeting in High Point
. The Springfield School was operated in various buildings until 1927, when it was sold to the old Guilford County school system, reportedly for $1, and merged into the new Allen Jay School.
Jay is also credited with putting Guilford College back on a sound financial footing after the war.
After throwing the name for the new magnet school open for nominations, the school board in December received six nominations – five to name the school "Allen Jay Preparatory Academy" and one to name it "Robert Utley KIPP Middle School."
The school board put out for comment until Feb. 7 a proposal to name the school "Allen Jay Middle School: A Preparatory Academy."
The school board originally planned to open the magnet school at Allen Jay Middle in August 2012 with 100 fifth graders and 100 sixth graders. One hundred seventh graders and 100 eighth graders would have been phased in at the beginning of the next two years. The opening date had since slipped by a year, and is now indefinite.
Green said he preferred to assume that the first 100 fifth graders would be at Welborn for a full year – and to be pleasantly surprised if they are able to move in sooner.
That's a rationally cautious approach, given delays in the construction of some other Guilford County Schools
<br>Guilford County Schools
has had mixed results running two programs in one school, and several school board members expressed concerns about launching one magnet program in the same building as another.
Green said, "Concerns have certainly been raised as to whether we should open a program at Welborn, considering it's a magnet program as well." He said he and his staff believe the fifth-grade-only option would address the significant concerns about starting the program at Welborn.
The Advantage Model Middle School, first proposed by Green two years ago, is an effort to copy the techniques of charter schools the school board so vocally opposes.
Unlike most magnet schools, the Advantage Model Middle School wouldn't have a curriculum focused on a particular subject. Exactly what the new magnet school would teach isn't quite clear.Guilford County Schools
Chief Academic Officer Beth Folger said the school would combine the programs and methods of the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools, the Ron Clark Academy private school in Atlanta and the Mastery Charter Schools chain.
Those schools, all successful, strict charter and private schools, were the marketing hooks to sell the still-vague concept for a retooled Allen Jay Middle, which has been closed since the rebuilt Union Hill Elementary School opened in August 2009. The school system had been teaching Union Hill's students at Allen Jay Middle during construction.Guilford County Schools
has no agreements with the Ron Clark Academy or the charter schools to run the new magnet school at Allen Jay Middle. Guilford County Schools
seems to have no reluctance to throw those schools' names around, although they are trademarked.
The school board does everything it can to kill the proliferation of, and funding for, new charter schools in Guilford County, but is trying to copy them while saddling the schools with the high overhead and administrative overkill of a traditional public school system. Still, magnet schools in traditional public school systems get federal grants, bringing in money that, in the case of Allen Jay, will be useful in rebooting a closed school.
After Guilford County voters approved $457 million in school bonds in May 2008, the school board proposed giving Allen Jay $12.1 million for renovation of the existing school, excluding its historic rock gym, for continued use as a middle school.
The Guilford County Schools
Facilities Department has since put repairing the Allen Jay Rock Gym on a list of maintenance priorities for $1.9 million. School board member Ed Price – although like many High Pointers he badly wants the gym repaired – said there were contractors in High Point
used to dealing with historic buildings who can do the job for much less, and the proposed renovations are now awaiting new cost estimates.
Green told the school board his administrators considered it critical to get a vote from the school board Thursday night – and that they had, in fact, already begun advertising the new magnet school ahead of the Guilford County Schools
magnet fair on Saturday, Jan. 26.
Construction has not yet begun at Allen Jay Middle and school board member Carlvena Foster, who represents part of High Point
, said she wants to see it start soon, "and we don't end up behind the 8-ball like we have at other schools."
McNair Elementary School on Yanceyville Road is expected to open during the first week of February 2012, after a long delay.
Most of the concerns expressed by school board members were over the presence of two programs at Welborn. Foster compared it to Triangle Lake Elementary in High Point
, where a Montessori school and a neighborhood school in the same building drew complaints from Montessori parents, resulting in the neighborhood kids being bused to Colfax Elementary....continued on page 2