The Auburn City School system has grown exponentially in the last 25-plus years, seeing new buildings, opportunities, awards and a large increase in students, leading to plans for another new high school as early as 2024.
Cristen Herring, superintendent of Auburn City Schools, presented to the Auburn Chamber of Commerce an update on the different schools within the system during September Tuesday Talk.
Herring has served in this position a few months and under her jurisdiction are 13 schools: Yarbrough Elementary, Wrights Mill Road Elementary, Richland Elementary, Pick Elementary, Ogletree Elementary, Dean Road Elementary, Creekside Elementary, Cary Woods Elementary, Auburn Early Education Center, J.F. Drake Middle, East Samford, Auburn Junior High and Auburn High.
Herring discussed enrollments in the system as compared to 1993 and 10 years in the future.
In 1993, Auburn city schools accommodated 3,652 students. Seven years later that number had increased to 4,328.
In 2010 that number had increased to 6,165, and today there are 8,875 students.
The school system is expected to have 10,230 students within its system by 2029.
“We’re proud of the students who come to Auburn city schools," she said. That increase is "a significant level of change in a relatively short period of time.”
A new high school?
The growing enrollment raises the question of when a new high school will be necessary to accommodate the students.
“In this facility’s master plan, in Plan 2028, the projected enrollment, compared to the capacity of the current Auburn high school, predicts that we would need to open a second high school in the year 2024,” Herring said. “However, we are evaluating, almost every day, the actual number of students who attend Auburn High School.
"We calculate the number of students in all the grades below and when they’ll matriculate, and how many will come and be added.”
There is the possibility of pushing off the new high school for a year or two, perhaps to 2025, she said.
Daniel Chesser, Auburn city schools public relations specialist, said that the new high school will be about a 48 month project.
In terms of the need for the school, when so many students are all placed on one campus, Chesser said, other risks are posed.
“So we really want to hone in on that relationship capacity with our kids, that our kids know each other,” he said. “And that just helps you in a myriad of ways when it comes to dealing with mental health issues, any kind of safety and security issue."
Auburn City School system is considering other similar situations such as Hoover and Spain Park, an example of two high schools in the same district, Chesser said.
“How many students can safely and lovingly enjoy their high school experience on that one campus,” Herring said. “What will be our tipping point?”
In addition to a new high school, other construction is taking place now within the school system. Cary Woods Elementary and J.F. Drake Middle are both working toward improvements.
Herring also touted another aspect of the school system: the educators and faculty.
“When you have nearly 9,000 students you need a team of dedicated, talented, hard-working adults to help [maintain] what they deem possible,” she said.
The system has 590 educators included within the 1,063 full-time employees.
Seventy percent of these educators have advanced degrees, there is a 12-year average of experience among them and 22 have been certified by the national board.
While many of the system students, 93%, showed interest in secondary education following high school, these students are also provided opportunities to work toward a career following high school or skills to take with them through higher education, Herring said.
“Many of these students are well prepared and could move right into the workforce with certificates and training and levels of expertise that makes them employable,” she said. “But for the most part our career technical education students are making career decisions. They’re learning more about health occupations or aquaculture.
"They’re discovering that that truly is their talent and interest and if its a degree that they should pursue in college.”
Auburn City Schools was rated as the fifth best school district in Alabama and it also recently was rated as one of the top places to work in Auburn, at No. 4, Herring shared with the chamber.
“The title of today’s program was the future of Auburn City Schools and certainly I know what that means,” she said. “It’s a lot about dollars and budgets, it’s a lot about construction and it’s a lot about our success for students and their achievement. But what I hope that I can demonstrate to you today is that we are well planned, we are well prepared, we carefully execute the plans that are in place but yet we’re flexible and we can adjust if something comes up today.
"But there is a solid commitment to the team.”