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      School closures and layoffs proposed for Birmingham district

      Daniel Payne students rally in Birmingham in an effort to save their school for closing. (abc3340.com)

      Tough news for Birmingham parents, students, and school leaders. In order to get the district on track with finances, state appointed leaders are recommending closing 8 campuses, reducing staff, and consolidating other campuses.

      Center Street Middle School, Daniel Payne Middle School, Hemphill Elementary, Norwood Elementary, Putnam Middle School, North Roebuck Elementary and the Kennedy Alternative School could close. Carver and Woodlawn high schools would add 7th and 8th grades and multiple elementary campuses will take on those students.

      "I want to tell them that we shouldn't be mixed up," Devante Overstreet, a Daniel Payne 7th grader said.
      "I think they will care," Bobby Keahey, Daniel Payne 7th grader said. "We will try to change their mind and let them know that we really care about our school."
      The proposal in cuts totals over $8 million. It's part of phase two - getting the district in line with the state requirement to cut $17 million from the budget - a plan that is coming at a high price to some.
      "Why is it they have to do this in our area?" R.L. Patterson, Pastor, Senior Missionary Baptist Church said. "Everything happens in our area. Why not somebody else? It's not fair."
      "7 schools! 7 schools are on the chopping block and I will say to the Board of Education - don't you have anything to do with it," Bishop Calvin Woods, SCLC said.
      By closing 8 campuses and trimming staff, Dr. Richardson says the system will be closer to its financial goal. Even after cuts, the district will be able to accommodate 31,000 students. Right now it has 24,000.
      "Am I pleased or satisfied with the plan? No," April Williams, Board President said. "I guess as Dr. Richardson said, these are the best of the bad choices."
      "If you don't close schools, you dismiss people," Dr. Ed Richardson, State Appointed Chief Financial Officer said. "80% of your budget are salaries of employees. That's why we are trying to do the schools because it would mean less people would have to be dismissed. "
      Public meetings are set for March 4th and 5th. The board will vote on March 12th. If it passes, the changes could take effect by May.

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