The Dollarway School District has seen a lot of changes in the 2016-2017 school year. Aside from the district reducing from four campuses to three, two of those schools have been renamed. Townsend Park Elementary is now Robert F. Morehead Middle School, and the former Robert F. Morehead campus is the home of Dollarway High School.
Superintendent Barbara Warren said the move was a tough decision, but when in a crisis, tough decisions have to be made. The district sits on both the state’s academic and fiscal distress lists and has been struggling for several years. Warren said feasibility studies showed that in order to find a solution that will allow students to be taught in classrooms that are up to standard and save the district money, it was determined that the best move would be for the high school to occupy a smaller building
Warren said that the name changes were a constant source of discussion in stakeholder meetings, which led to the renaming of Townsend Park Elementary.
“The most recent stakeholder meeting we had was in July, and we discussed these things … it had come to my attention that we had discussed some name shifts that some people were concerned about,” Warren said. “I received some emails from some of our principals and parents so we all talked about it and we had gotten some really good feedback. They had some concerns that made a lot of sense — I mean our stakeholders and taking it into consideration after hearing from everyone we made the best choice would could make.”
Along with school name changes, the district also expanded the elementary school grade levels. James Matthews Elementary is now a pre-kindergarten through fourth grade campus, and Robert F. Morehead Middle School houses grades five through eight.
“James Matthews is someone that means a great deal to the district so we couldn’t change that name, and Townsend Park is a historic name — it has a park named after it. The land that was donated for all of its facilities to be … the more I learned the history of it, I learned that it’s a very, very important name.
"Then you have Robert F. Morehead that housed our upper level, so you have to ask yourself what name do you let go of because we’re just reducing to three campuses. Like I said, after some feedback, we had just honored someone named Robert F. Morehead, so when we decided to expand the grades we also decided to keep the name associated with the middle school,” Warren said.
Warren said a parent pointed out that Dollarway High School is the only school that has the name of the district in it, and they didn’t want to change that.
“I hate that this had to be — I do, but we had to react and do what we had to do,” Warren said. “So we have three buildings, and we’re going to make certain that Townsend Park shows up on our gymnasium, where the Townsend Park Elementary campus was. We kept three campuses, so it’s basically like we closed an elementary school …one elementary school is enough for us to do what we need to do in this district.”