Property decision should consider students

Monday Sanderson

UNA officials declared a formal interest Jan. 25 for the land where Florence Middle School used to stand, and they have been fighting for the chance to purchase the property on Cherry Street next to Braly Stadium ever since.

However, with this declaration and struggle, they are showing Florence middle schoolers that sports and money are more important than academics.

Currently, students in Florence Middle School must attend classes in modular classrooms behind Hibbett Middle School, while the Florence Board of Education makes plans to create a new building for them.

While the board opened bids for companies to begin construction of the school, UNA President Kenneth Kitts and the UNA board of trustees have addressed concerns of the effects of the new school on Braly Stadium.

“(The architectural plan) calls for the new school to be built within feet of the home side of Braly Stadium, thus eliminating most of the parking that had existed behind the old school,” Kitts said in a statement.

However, the new plans will add an additional 20 parking spaces, said Connie Wallace, interim superintendent of Florence City Schools, in an email to Kitts and Athletics Director Mark Linder.

It is understandable for UNA officials to worry about the effects of the new building on Braly Stadium. Braly Stadium not only serves as the home location for UNA football games, but it is also a “multimillion investment,” Kitts said.

Despite these concerns, due to the struggle between UNA officials and Florence City Schools, there is a delay on finding a contractor to build a new building for Florence Middle School. This delay causes middle school students to spend more time learning in modular classrooms and not in a permanent structure.

“UNA officials have a responsibility to act when our interests are threatened,” Kitts and UNA board of trustees President Pro Tempore Martin Abroms said in a March 7 statement. “Legal agreements must be honored, our financial investments must be protected and the needs of our students (many of whom call Florence home) must be given due consideration.”

UNA officials state their intentions on protecting the interests of current students but not the Florence Middle School students, who could potentially be UNA students in the next four or five years. If the future of Braly Stadium is important, then future students should be, too.

As of March 18, UNA officials and the Florence Board of Education have come to a potential agreement. This is a great first step for both parties. They are taking actions to cooperate and decide what is best for not only the middle school students but also the university and city.

UNA students should attend the public board of trustees meetings to voice their concerns and thoughts on this situation and others. While Braly Stadium is UNA’s past and present, the students at Florence Middle School are part of the future.

It’s important for all parties to prioritize the education for the youth.