Orange Beach’s Expect Excellence after school program has outgrown the available facilities and program coordinators are looking to neighboring areas for solutions.
The Expect Excellence program offers students after school programs in art, music and culinary arts, just to name a few. The culinary arts and music classes have a waitlist due to lack of facility space. Currently, the program utilizes the Orange Beach Recreation Center.
During the Orange Beach City Council meeting Feb. 4, program coordinators Jonathan and Jessica Langston spoke to the council regarding the issue and a possible solution.
The classes use the kitchen in the community center but its size and availability limit the class size. Currently, 40 kids are on the waiting list.
Elberta High School is a possible solution. Expanding the program to include Elberta students and utilizing Elberta High School facilities open classes to more students in the ever-growing program.
“We have five days in the semester when the community center is not available to us and four others in question,” Jonathan Langston said. “We can actually go to Elberta, use their state-of-the-art facility and take our classes full in one day, take a waitlist class off another day. And add their students and have an additional day.”
Elberta could also offer music rooms, a Spanish teacher, a shop class with agriculture, woodworking and welding as well as an auditorium. Orange Beach would fund the teachers and pay transportation costs. Orange Beach students would have the option of staying in classes locally or traveling to Elberta for some classes.
The Orange Beach City Council tabled a vote to spend another $17,000 on its program to include students and facilities from Elberta during the Feb. 4 meeting. The program would include students in third through tenth grade selected by the principals of the schools.
Councilmembers Joni Blalock-Costo and Jeff Boyd expressed reservations about spending taxpayer dollars on a program outside of the city.
“I think it’s an incredible way to move forward. It’s not without concerns and you can understand why there are concerns. But I also think it’s a great opportunity to be the neighbor we should be. I would like to see it as a trial basis moving forward that if it becomes an issue, we can pull back off it,” Blalock-Costo said.
Kennon said the program is a plus for everyone. The extra money to fund the program would result in more Orange Beach students getting to participate in Expect Excellence and give students from Elberta an opportunity for quality after school classes.
“If we don’t use taxpayer dollars from Orange Beach and we don’t use their facilities we will have less of our kids participating,” Kennon said. “Let’s expand the program for our children, not limit it or reduce it.”
Council asked Jonathan and Jessica Langston to provide more information on logistics and what the program entails. The council could consider this at the next city council meeting Feb. 18.