michael kors wallet outlet Issue of new Ensley school broaches meeting as school board approves more than million in capital improvementsThe Birmingham Board of Education approved Tuesday more than million in capital improvements for the 44-school Birmingham City Schools system. (Evan Belanger/Alabama Media Group)

The issue of a new school for Birmingham's Ensley community was noton the agenda during the Birmingham Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

But thatdidn't stop the topic from emerging in discussion multiple times during thenearly two hour meeting.

Veteranschool board member April Williams, District 8, who represents the Ensleycommunity, opposed all capital expenditures during the meeting, arguing themoney was already committed by a previous school board administration todemolish and rebuild Ernest F. Bush K-8 School.

"If you'vealready obligated those funds, how do you obligate the same dollars twice?" sheasked the board.

Williamsthen proposed an alternate plan to delay certain capital expenditures and usethe money to pay off million in school system debt issues, enabling them toborrow million.

She arguedthat would enable the system to build the new school in Ensley whilesimultaneously reducing its annual debt service.

The rest ofthe board was not convinced though, approving .9 million in capitalexpenditures and up to million additional for repairs to Woodlawn HighSchool.

The capitalexpenditures included .5 million in deferred maintenance across the systemand .4 million in technology and computer lab upgrades that will enableonline standardized testing, online class registration and provide a newcontent management system.

School boardmembers argued the capital expenditures were not related to the issue of a newschool in Ensley and that they had not had enough time to review Williams'proposal that was given to them minutes before the start of the meeting.

"The issuethat we're talking about is absolutely separate from the issue you justgave us to consider," responded school board member Daagye Hendricks, District4.

"The issueon the agenda is technology for 44 schools, and I don't want the public to beconfused that this decision is in any way attached to this that you've given ustoday."

The meetingcomes after Board President Randall Woodfin, District 5, informed Ensleyresidents during a community meeting Monday that plans for the new school wouldbe scrubbed due to a lack of funds.

"I standbefore you to tell you that this is a very tough decision, but we don't haveanother option," he said at the time.

According toWoodfin, taking into account system-wide spending on security upgrades,required technology upgrades and other capital improvements, only millionremained to meet the capital needs of all 44 schools in the Birmingham system.

If theyelected to wait for funding to become available for a new school, he saidMonday, there is no guarantee of when it will happen or where the money willcome from.

Instead of anew school, Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Craig Witherspoon unveiled Mondayplans for a million renovation of the school built in 1928. That plan willgo to the board in May, according to Witherspoon.

Despite the extensiverenovation plan, six of 13 residents who made public comments during themeeting expressed concern about Bush K-8, including Rep. Roderick Scott,D-Fairfield.

"As we havelearned at the state, you can't convert an 85-year-old building to work in theworld of technology that we have here today," he said. "There are enormousrequirements that you must have."

After themeeting, Williams said the proposed renovation does not include many of theamenities that would have been part of the new school, including a pre-kindergartenprogram, a magnet middle school program, parking improvements, and indoor andoutdoor playgrounds and athletic fields.

She alsosaid the school system has already spent 8,000 on professional servicesdesigning the new school and that those funds would go to waste if the facilityis not built.

However,school system officials dispute that figure, saying the expenditure was closerto 0,000.

In deeply personal responses, dozens of former inmates, family members of current inmates and volunteers with prison ministries have given detailed accounts of how their experiences with the facility continue to affect their lives.


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