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Impact of Gulf Shores creating new school system

The target date for a Gulf Shores city school system is set and officials plan to make the transition by Fall of 2018.

A Gulf Shores city school system is on the fast track but many questions remain regarding what happens next.

The target date for a Gulf Shores city school system is set and officials plan to make the transition by Fall of 2018.

But many folks are wondering what that means for children who live in areas outside city limits, like Fort Morgan, Orange beach, and Ono Island.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said it's something that is weighing heavily on the minds of children and parents in his city.

"I fully expect them to keep our kids until a time when it makes sense for us to keep them here. I can't imagine them not doing that. That's what we would do for them," said Kennon.

Kennon said it would make sense to wait until 2019, when Orange Beach gets its own combined middle school and high school building.

According to Gulf Shores city officials, it all depends on a separation agreement between the municipality's School Board, which expected to be formed in November, and the Baldwin County School System.

Blake Phelps, Economic Development director for the city of Gulf Shores, said he believes the decision will boil down to what the two sides and the state department of education agree is best.

"From the city's perspective, we want to do what's the least disruptive option possible and whatever is in the best interest of the kids. We've studied previous cities that have gone through this transition and typically, that's how its done," Phelps said.

As for the Baldwin County owned public schools currently in use, Phelps said the city would take over the buildings as well as any debts associated in accordance with state law.

Gulf Shores' decision could be financially beneficial for the county as well.

According to the Baldwin County Board of Education, the county school system may now pay less to the state for funding per student.

Angie Swiger, Baldwin County Board Representative for Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Elberta, said that's based on high property values in Gulf Shores which lowered the equity number and amount of funding matched by the state.

"It is uncharted territory. There are a lot of situations where one thing has to happen before another. So we'll just move along together," said Swiger.

Gulf Shores city officials plan to reveal the criteria and application forms for the city school board at next Monday's city council meeting.

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