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MCS moves to consolidate FHS and Union Academy

Union Academy will be incorporated into the new Franklin High School. MCS photo  Union Academy will be incorporated into the new Franklin High School. MCS photo 

If Macon County succeeds in constructing a new high school, which could be contingent on receiving a Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant , the school system will consolidate Union Academy and Franklin High School into the same campus. 


The move would not only benefit the students of Union Academy, who would have access to more resources through FHS, it could also improve the school district’s chances of receiving grant money.

“As we move forward for our FHS grant, combining Union Academy and Franklin High School is a very favorable thing to look at doing in terms of increasing the probability of receiving the grant,” Macon County Board of Education Chairman Jim Breedlove said during a June 26 meeting.

In February, the school system began looking at the possibility of consolidation of Union Academy and Franklin High School to put it in a better position to win the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant. One of the qualifiers for that grant is consolidation of two schools. However, for LS3P to move forward in the planning process with Franklin High School and Union Academy administration and staff on how to incorporate Union Academy into the design of the new project, the school board had to approve the consolidation.

“Without a new high school, we would not consolidate Franklin High School and Union Academy,” said Superintendent Chris Baldwin. “However, in order for us to move forward with this project, the board needs to approve the consolidation contingent upon that new project moving forward.” 

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Last month, Macon County Commissioners signed a Memorandum of Understanding  with the Board of Education that the county would use any money received from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant on a new high school, were the county to receive that grant. Baldwin estimates that the school system will know the results of the grant application in September. If the school system wins the grant it applied for, it would get as much at $50-60 million toward the new high school project.

“Administration at the central office have been working on the design of the new high school. One of the challenges has been how to incorporate Union Academy, as a school within a school, where do you locate that? That’s going to continue to be a challenge, but they are working on all of those things,” said Baldwin.

According to the board’s lawyer, John Henning, there is no downside to the board approving the consolidation of Union Academy and Franklin High School because the move is contingent on the new high school project coming to fruition.

“I don’t know of any downside to agreeing to this,” said Henning. “You’re talking about consolidation of physical space that they’re gonna be on, this is not closure of any school. I don’t know of any mechanism that binds you to anything if you don’t get the grant and aren’t constructing something, you can go on ahead as you already have been operating without taking further steps. You’re not committed to anything.”

While there are no concrete plans for what would become of the Union Academy building, Breedlove did mention that it could be used as space for preschool classes in the future.

Board member Hillary Wilkes reported that the liaison committee had an extensive meeting about merging the two schools.

“I had some doubts, but after coming out of that meeting, it really did seem like there was a consensus that it was the right thing to do going forward even without the grant being involved,” said Wilkes. “I do think it’s going to be the best choice. But it is certainly very appealing to have it help with the grant.” 

Board member Diedre Breeden agreed that beyond receiving the grant, consolidating the two schools is in the best interest of the students.

“A lot of it hinges on the grant, a lot of our conversation hinges on the grant, but the consensus I felt like at our last meeting when we were all together was, this is what’s best for the students because of how it’s going to enhance the opportunities that they’re going to be exposed to,” said Breeden. “I want to make sure, yes the grant is super important, but this is a good opportunity for our students and a really good step moving forward.” 

The board unanimously approved the consolidation in the case that Macon County follows through with the new high school project.

“As Diedre said, this is a chance for the students to take advantage of a lot of good things,” said Breedlove.

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