Birmingham Board reconsiders consolidation plans

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - The Birmingham School Board appears to be making major changes to its school consolidation plan.

Board members met for a work session Tuesday night and agreed in principle on at least 2 moves that will change where some new schools are built.

Under the board's previous consolidation plan, the old Tuggle and Hill elementary schools would be demolished, and a new, merged school would be built on the Lincoln Middle School site.

But community members including new board member Emanuel Ford opposed that, saying the Tuggle site is a historic landmark.

The board's construction manager told board members the building designed for the Lincoln site could work at the current Tuggle property, but it will cost significantly more to make the ground ready for work.

Board members couldn't vote on the idea, but it appears a majority support that plan.

"I'm just elated," said Cornelia Cobb, an advocate for keeping Tuggle in place. "Because if the school goes, so goes our neighborhood. We have a revitalization plan in place, and we're hoping for more students to move into our area. These homes we're building would be conducive for small children."

In another reversal, the original consolidation plan called for renovating Bush Middle School and Councill Elementary.

It now appears the board will seek to demolish both schools and merge them into a new K-8 school to be built on the old Ensley High School property.

The principals of Bush and Councill say a new building will be better for their students.

"I think the students of the community deserve a new school," said Vanessa G. Byrd, Bush's principal. "Bush was built in 1929, it is now 2010. The school has a lot of problems, renovation would be useless."

"I think it'll be good for the community," said Steve Brown, Councill's principal. "As Mr. Maye said, when you have a school of 5-7, you can certainly offer more programs for the students in that school. So I do think it would be a good decision."

New board member Edward Maddox is also asking the board to reconsider its plans for Woodlawn High School and the former Hayes High site. Maddox would like to see Woodlawn become a K-8 school, and a new Hayes high built on the old site.

The board agreed to study the prospect.

None of their decisions are complete until the board votes on them in a regular meeting.

The next regular meeting is next Tuesday.