Ensley residents meet about Bush Middle School renovation plans

Ensley residents meet about Bush Middle School renovation plans

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A $7 million renovation is planned for Bush Middle School, but Ensley residents are upset, saying school officials promised them a new school. Source: Damian Johnson/WBRC A $7 million renovation is planned for Bush Middle School, but Ensley residents are upset, saying school officials promised them a new school. Source: Damian Johnson/WBRC
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

Members of Birmingham's Enlsey community met with school officials Tuesday night about plans to renovate a neighborhood school.

Some are upset about the proposal, saying system officials promised them a new building, not an updated one.

In 2011, when Bush Middle and Council Elementary joined into one school, the Ensley community was told they would get a new building to support the merger.

"We were very excited about it, what it would do for our neighborhood, with the new Tuxedo Projects coming up and everything. We saw a good hope," Ensley neighborhood president George McCall said.

But McCall says the community's hopes were dashed when school system officials announced those plans would change, and instead of a new building, the current school would be renovated instead.

"We need something to make people want to come back to this area. They won't come to an old rundown school," McCall said.

"I understand his frustration, but no one has broken a promise. We're just unable to go forth with the original plans because of financial constraints," Birmingham School Board President Randall Woodfin said.

Woodfin and Birmingham School Superintendent Craig Wither say when the old school board approved a new Bush K-8 school, the money was there.

But at some point, the plans were put on hold and never picked up again as other needs came about. That included a $14 million deferred maintenance plan that was required by the state.

After that and other projects, the men say there wasn't enough to build a new Bush and be fair to other schools. But they feel the $7 million renovation is a good compromise.

"There will basically be a redoing of the entire building except for the outside brick. Everything in that building will be brand new. Cafeteria, furniture, ventilation," Woodfin said.

Parents who attended the meeting were also disappointed with the way they had to share their concerns. Instead of being allowed to stand up and speak, officials passed out pieces of paper. They instructed parents to write down their questions and that didn't sit well with some.

"We oughta been allowed to be able to speak and be heard," one woman said.

School board members will vote on the proposed renovations in May.

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