Ensley residents offer thoughts of Councill and Bush merger

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -  Parents in Ensley had their chance Tuesday to speak out about plans to merge 2 schools into a new building.

Birmingham's school board is considering a plan to merge Councill Elementary and Bush Middle School into one new K-8 school building, but some parents and homeowners are concerned. They worry how the merger would affect students and the neighborhood.

Inside an aged gym, parents of Councill Elementary students were told the school board is considering whether the $12 million plan to renovate Councill and Bush Middle school would be better spent building a new K-8 building on the abandoned Ensley High School site.

"A new facility will allow us to have the state-of-the-art technology, have classrooms that are upgraded with electronic whiteboards, and all those nice things that allow us to augment what we're doing with the standard curriculum and really take our kids to the next level," said Councill's Principal Steve Brown.

Both prinicipals support the merger plan, but many Ensley homeowners and some parents disagree.

"I would hate to see a school taken out of the neighborhood," said Eddie Thomas, an officer with the Ensley Neighborhood Association. "They took a school out from across the creek, and then to close this one and you'll have 2 schools idle and the children have to go so far, that's my thought."

"I don't like it because I'm looking at the other schools that hadn't faired well, and repeating the same mistake," said a woman who identified herself as Mrs. Burroughs, a Councill parent. "And I think this is pretty good school. The wide age range and maybe the violence, you know mixing up together, and I'm concerned about that."

School administrators emphasized the merger idea is just a proposal, not a done deal. Some opponents of the plan admitted their minds may not be made up yet, either.

"I would hate to see it done away with, but life goes on, things change," Thomas said. "I would hate, years from now when I'm dead and gone, that some child could think "the school could've been this if not for that lady who spoke up and said don't."

Birmingham's school board hasn't scheduled a vote on whether to move forward with the merger idea.

Administrators say they're still trying to get a feel for the community's input before deciding whether to move forward with the current renovation plan, or switch to the merger idea.

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