Birmingham school plan raises concerns about student safety

Many Birmingham parents are asking school leaders to reconsider a consolidation plan. It would close schools and move some 7th and 8th graders into high school. They fear their young children will be easy targets for bullying.

The state appointed chief financial officer told a room full of parents and students Tuesday night that ideally, two high schools should be closed. But he said high schools have already undergone or going through renovations now. The next solution to cutting eight million dollars was to move younger students into high schools.

Parents aren't liking the idea.

Students get curbside lessons. At Woodlawn High School, it's "say no to drugs and alcohol."

Mother Cherique Smith fears the message will be lost on the twelve and thirteen year olds who could be forced into high school early. Her son is a third grader at Hudson K-8, which could become a K-6 with older students going to high school.

"It's not a good idea. Those are babies. They don't have any business being put with those high school children who are 17, 18. They are grown," she said.

The proposed plan closes Center Street, Daniel Payne, and Putnam Middle Schools. The sixth graders go to elementary schools. The seventh and eighth graders move to Carver and Woodlawn High Schools.{}

Seventh grader Devante Overstret could be at Carver next fall. He and other Daniel Payne students rallied outside the board of education Tuesday.

"I'm out here{}because I{}don't want to be mixed with those big kids," he said.{}"I don't want to be bullied."

School leaders understand.

"It gave the impression we'd dump{}seventh and eighth{}graders into high school. That would be a mistake. I wouldn't agree to that," said Dr. Ed Richardson, state appointed CFO, Tuesday night.

The younger students will have separate classrooms, entrances and staff. At Carver, it will be by floor. Woodlawn is working on a new addition. It will leave a separate building empty for the seventh and eighth graders.

"The separation could really be achieved and some of the benefits of a shared campus but also the safety and security knowing there is that natural separation there," said Dr. Craig Witherspoon, superintendent of Birmingham City Schools.{}

But some parents and{}PTA presidents fail to see the benefits, especially when students can end up on the same bus.

"That's unacceptable to parents because our babies do not need to be in the those schools with the high school{}kids," said Donna Thomas, president of the Birmingham Council PTA.

Here's a complete breakdown of the plan: Students from Center Street Middle School would go to Arrington Middle School and Carver High School. Sixth graders from Daniel Payne Middle School would go to South Hampton Elementary and seventh and eighth graders would head to Carver. Younger Putnam Middle School students head to Ossie Ware Mitchell Middle School and older ones go to Woodlawn High School.

For the elementary schools, Norwood closes and students go to Phillips Academy. Hemphill shuts down and students transfer to Jackson and West End Academy. North Roebuck relocates to the{}Martha Gaskins Middle School building. Martha Gaskins students go to Smith and Ossie Ware.

Avondale, Barrett, Hayes K-8, Hudson K-8, Inglenook K-8, Oliver and South Hampton become K-6 schools.

The new Oxmoor K-8 will open as K-5.

Kennedy Alternative School will move to the Daniel Payne building.

There will be two public hearings on the plan. The first is Monday at Carver High School from 6 pm to 8 pm. The second is at Huffman High School on Tuesday from 6 pm to 8 pm.


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