The Huntsville City Council approved a lease agreement with Huntsville City Schools on Thursday that will allow the district to move its alternative school program from the Huntsville Center for Technology to the Cavalry Hill building.
Thursday's decision was not quick by any means. After four school board members and the superintendent shared their support for the Cavalry Hill move during the public comment section of the meeting, the council decided to keep the discussion going.
The proposal approved Thursday is only slightly different than the one that was tabled two weeks ago. The agreement is now 10 years and two months long instead of 10 years. This change was made so the agreement ends with the school year. The approved lease agreement also includes additional language about the more than $100,000 worth of work that's already been done by the school district on the Cavalry Hill property. That information was added to reflect the understanding that, for more than a year, the board has been under the impression they'd be in the building.
The council debated the proposal and asked Superintendent Christie Finley questions. Before they took a vote, Council President Devyn Keith asked for an amendment to the contract.
Without any sort of master plan, Keith asked the council to borrow $4 million to pay for improvements to the Cavalry Hill building. He added that if the master plan they eventually put together calls for less than $4 million worth of improvements, the additional money would go to the school district.
Keith agreed that in comparison to the Huntsville Center for Technology, Cavalry Hill is the better building, but that doesn't mean Cavalry Hill is up to the city's standards on other buildings and projects in other districts.
Keith brought up the Sandra Moon Complex, Natatorium, John Hunt Park, The Rock, the recently approved $40 million amphitheater, and other projects in other districts where the city has invested money. Keith argued the same money and standards are not carrying over on the Cavalry Hill project located in his district. He and Councilman Kling got into a short back and forth discussion comparing whose district gets more money, parks, and overall investment.
When Keith asked for the $4 million amendment, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle was quick to say throwing money at a problem never solves it, and ultimately, the amendment was not put to a vote.
Now that the school board knows it's moving into Cavalry Hill, Finley said they can start planning and staffing in order to make the move before the start of the next school year. Before the vote, Finley said that if they could not move into Cavalry Hill, the district would be forced to find space for each alternative school student in his/her home school. Each board member and Finley seemed set on the alternative program not returning to the Huntsville Center for Technology next school year.
Right now, it's unclear if the council will invest more money into the Cavalry Hill building or move forward with plans to have a master plan drawn up.