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      Birmingham School Board holds another meeting on school consolidations

      Some Birmingham parents heard the rationale Wednesday behind the closing and consolidations of their children's schools. The Birmingham Board of Education and the state-appointed chief financial officer conducted a community meeting beginning at 6 p.m. at Hudson K through 8 school.

      There are two consolidation plans at issue: the closing of Lewis and Norwood elementary schools (the children will be moved into the former Kirby Middle School) and the closing of Hemphill Elementary (those students would attend Jackson Elementary).

      Some parents tell us they just want to understand what's going on.

      "I am going to the meeting because I do want to get a better understanding of it before I start talking [and not] understand everything," says Birmingham parent Ericka Allen.

      Parents will have the opportunity to ask questions.


      Superintendent Craig Witherspoon says it will cost the district $3 million to renovate and prepare the former Kirby Middle School Building for the planned Lewis/Norwood Elementary consolidation. However, he says that money comes from the district's capital fund, which is to be used for that purpose. He says this option would still save the district more in the long run.

      Dr. Ed Richardson, the state-appointed chief financial officer, says he will provide the tests and updates on the status of Kirby Middle School during a April 2 work session.

      Parents voiced concerns including the move to consolidate Norwood and Lewis Elementary schools instead of sending Norwood Elementary students to Phillips Academy, the length of changes in the district due to the financial recovery plan as well as the multimillion-dollar investment in the former Kirby school instead of using money to help{}existing schools. Witherspoon contends the plan is the best the board could{}come up with based on data it received from a variety of sources.

      When it comes to long-standing safety concerns, Witherspoon says the district is working with the City of Birmingham to make sure routes and school zones are safe for all students.