A vision to build a statewide, health-care-focused high school in a rural west Alabama town may soon become a reality.
In an effort to address the growing health-care workforce shortage in Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey announced a proposal to develop the Alabama School of Health Care Sciences in Demopolis, Marengo County, in his March 7 State of the State address.
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Ivey said the proposed school would welcome ninth- through twelfth-grade students from across the state and offer an innovative curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math. Pending approval of the proposal by the Alabama Legislature, hundreds of students will have access to health-care education opportunities and hands-on clinical training experiences through the school.
The school will not only train students, but also help position them for immediate employment after graduation.
“When these students receive their diplomas, they will be prepared to fill a wide spectrum of health care jobs or pursue higher education,” Ivey said in his State of the State address.
State Finance Director Bill Poole said the school’s proposed construction budget would be $62 million and would be adjacent to Whitfield Regional Hospital, part of the UAB Health System in Demopolis.
Poole said Demopolis was chosen as the proposed site for the new health care school for several reasons, including the growing need for health care workers in rural areas.
“We have a severe shortage of health care workers across the state, but especially in rural areas,” said Poole, a Demopolis native who was appointed finance director by Ivey in 2021 after serving as a representative for House District 63, which includes Tuscaloosa County. , in the Alabama Legislature.
Poole said Demopolis’ partnership with UAB Health System also makes the city a great home for a potential school.
Demopolis Mayor Woody Collins said he is 100% supportive of the project and honored that Demopolis was chosen as the proposed site for the school.
“I really appreciate the governor. Demopolis is going to have the opportunity to represent rural communities across the state, not just west-central Alabama, and to show what can be done in a rural environment and in a rural community,” Collins said.
“I think we fit the mold very well, because the school we’re proposing is located next to a hospital here in Demopolis that’s a UAB affiliate. So these kids will have opportunities to shadow health-care professionals, and it’s located in a very, very safe area of town. ,” he said.
Collins said the project has been in the works for years, and he said he was excited when Ivey finally announced it during his address.
“Well, we’ve actually been following it and discussing it for quite a while.. But when the governor actually announced it, I’ll be honest, I didn’t know he was going to … I was thrilled,” Collins said.
Collins said he has a lot of respect for the governor and his vision to help improve rural Alabama.
“Health care in rural areas has been a difficult issue for a long time. And I think the governor understands in his vision that if a lot of these young health-care professionals are introduced to rural America, and understand what is rural? America is really all about, they’re schools. May be willing to stay in rural America if it gets out of,” Collins said.
Poole said the project is still in the early stages of development and the next steps include open discussions with more stakeholders and doing the necessary work to ensure the proposed school becomes a reality.
“Now, I want to be broader, have more stakeholders be part of that discussion and think strategically about what’s the path to actually bringing a vision to life. And there are a lot of hurdles in that process that remain, but the intent is to go through that process with public input.” ,” Poole said.
If the proposal is approved by the Alabama Legislature, the Alabama School of Health Care Sciences will become the fourth magnet school statewide, joining the Alabama School of Fine Arts, the Alabama School of Math and Science and the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering.
Reach Jasmine Hollie at [email protected].