Dental schools in Huntsville, Alabama, and many other Alabama cities are struggling with dwindling enrollment.
A $4 million plan to build a new dental school in Huntsdale that opened last year has drawn criticism from some local residents and dental professionals who say the school is not adequately equipped to handle the demands of the population.
The Huntsville City Schools district is trying to fix the situation by creating a dental school for the ages, which would open in the Huntsville area in 2019.
The new dental program would serve up to 50 students, but the Huntsdale City Schools Board approved the plan last month after considering the suggestions of local and national dental associations.
The school board was considering whether to open a dental program in the district after it was announced last fall that the state was opening a dental office to address the state’s dental crisis.
The proposal was to create a new high school dental school at the Hunts Valley Memorial School in Huntsworth, where students can complete a bachelor of science degree or master of science in dental science.
The Huntsdale County Health Department has been funding the dental school and its construction for the past five years.
The county board had already approved the plans of Huntsville Mayor Bill Hargrove and Huntsville-Spartanburg County Commissioner Bill Hinkle.
But Hargreve and Hinkle said they would like to see the dental program expanded beyond Huntsville and expand into other counties, so that the dental education can be expanded across the state.
The proposal is the latest effort by the Hunts County Schools Board to address its dental crisis, which has prompted some school officials to call for a full overhaul of the system.
Hargrevell said the dental office is needed in the county because the state has been struggling to maintain dental programs in other parts of the state, including Alabama.
Hogansville and other counties are trying to make up for the lost dental resources by investing in dental programs elsewhere.
Hogleves plan includes the expansion of dental programs at Huntsville schools to include dental students, dental nurses and dental technicians.
It also would create a dental education program in other counties to address dental shortages in those counties.
Higgins said he has heard complaints about the lack of dental facilities and students in Huntsland.
“Huntsville is the epicenter of the problem,” he said.
“I don’t want to go to another county.”