Gardendale School Appeals May Delay Pullout from Jefferson County 

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Jefferson County built Gardendale High School seven years ago. The Gardendale School System would have to pay the county for the school if it becomes part of the the city's independent school system.

Mark Almond

The City of Gardendale is expected to take control of the two elementary schools in its city limits on June 1, one of the first steps in pulling away from the Jefferson County school system. But two court filings this week could delay that move.

Lawyers for black students zoned to Gardendale schools on Monday asked a federal judge to halt the formation of the new Gardendale school system in light of their plans to appeal.

On Tuesday, the Gardendale school board also asked the court to delay transferring Gardendale Elementary and Snow Rogers Elementary to its new system until a decision is made on the appeal.  If U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala does not grant the request, Gardendale could be faced with hiring staff and arranging vendors for its two schools while an appeal is pending.

In its motion, the city said: “While Gardendale welcomes the opportunity to operate two schools and so demonstrate its good faith, Gardendale believes it is in the best interests of the students and parents whom it serves to ask the Court to grant Plaintiffs’ motion to stay and to allow the two elementary schools to remain in the County system pending the outcome of the appeal. Gardendale submits that operating a two-school system under the cloud of a pending appeal is fraught with difficulties that could be avoided by a stay.”

In April, Judge Haikala cleared the way for Gardendale to separate from the Jefferson County school district by first operating two elementary schools and showing it could be done without discrimination. After three years, the court could allow Gardendale to completely pull away from the county and operate all four schools in that city.

But Gardendale said on Tuesday it doesn’t want a partial route to a new school system; it wants to begin with the operation of all four schools.

Gardendale hired its own school superintendent and formed a school board about three years ago. Residents also agreed to pay more property tax to help fund a city-controlled schools system.

Those plans have been delayed in federal court because Gardendale schools are part of the Jefferson County school system, which remains under federal court-ordered desegregation. Plaintiffs have argued that a new school system in Gardendale could impact diversity in Gardendale and other county schools.