Why the High School is moving to West Homewood and other questions asked and answered at a Homewood City Schools presentation tonight:
Most of the 300 + parents showing up tonight at the Homewood High School auditorium already knew the basic plan in play to relocate the 1973 high school building from Lakeshore Drive to a newly purchased parcel on West Oxmoor Road adjoining the West Homewood ballfields. But they were treated to an organized and straightforward presentation of supporting demographics and history, via a study by B. L. Harbert (which built the city’s latest Park and Rec Center) to make the decision more understandable.
Bottom line, the school system and city are partners in a plan to use a $4.25 million property on West Oxmoor Road to relocate the high school, expand ballfields and relocate the West Homewood Park swimming pool to a part of nearby Patriot Park property.
The supporting evidence was provided in an earnest, one-hour initial presentation by Homewood City Schools superintendent Bill Cleveland, who promised no elementary school would be relocated but toured the recent growth statistics at the system’s three elementary schools and middle school to the foregone conclusion that the high school could not long remain functional in its location on Lakeshore.
- The growth in student enrollment system wide has increased 30% since 2000;
- An equivalent growth in city park program participation has been tracked since 2009;
- The median age of Homewood residents has dropped from 40 to 29, parents of early elementary-age students;
- Kindergarten enrollment from 2009-10 to the current year has grown from 305 to 309, topping out at 349 in the 2013-14 academic year. These large classes are making their way through the grades, ultimately to push the capacity of the high school beyond its 1,177 capacity by 2023.
Current status by school, expansion possibilities and cost of additions at three elementary schools at $29,428,900 for all three and middle school expansion costing at least $13.7 million, probably more:
Hall-Kent School, west Homewood—
- 588 students total; 42 classrooms
- Easiest school to enlarge without disruption;
- Could add 16 classrooms by an L-shaped addition on the north side that would occupy a portion of the track.
Edgewood Elementary School
- The largest school in attendance and grounds, at 832 students in 55 classrooms;
- Could build out the east side for more classrooms, including a partial second story, and also expand the cafeteria on the south side, by taking up part of the playground.
Shades Cahaba Elementary
- The smallest of the three elementaries and most difficult to expand, with 578 students in 39 classrooms;
- Expansion to the north could add 18 classrooms and enlarge the cafeteria;
- Could build a new gymnasium in the “horseshoe”‘ and use the current gym space for more classrooms.
Homewood Middle School
- The school has 927 students in 48 classrooms;
- Considering adding a 5th grade wing angled out to the north toward Valley Avenue, and adding to cafeteria;
Dr. Cleveland, a Homewood HS graduate and first principal of the new Middle School in 2005-06, said the school system’s working plan had been to sell the 28-acre Magnolia apartment property for single-family residential. Lately, in view of plans to expand, the system wants to hold onto the property, whether to build a new school building or build temporary classroom buildings to house students during elementary school construction (the original plan for purchasing the $10 million property was to develop a cross-country track and other facilities, possibly an intermediate school.)
At this point Dr. Cleveland introduced the parks and rec director to show how park lands were also in need of expansion to accommodate the growing city.
Park and Rec presentation
Berkley Squires, the park and rec director and now Public Services Superintendent over streets, sanitation, landscaping and parks, presented a case for expanding the park facilities, saying West Homewood Park had been purchased in 1966, enlarged in 197s and had multiple renovations in later years, including the pool and upper fields added in 2003-04.
Parks participation had grown from 3,100 children in 2009 to 4,100 in 2016, he said.
He said the ballfields were inadequate for growing baseball, flag football, lacrosse, peewee football and soccer programs; the pool wasn’t up to the standard of modern families, and the parks maintenance staff worked out of a disordered collection of metal buildings on the grounds. Harbert’s study showed how a new high school could be positioned on the property (already purchased by the city for that purpose) by the stadium and also provide room for a new maintenance facility and three new multipurpose fields on the upper-field (also called the 6-acre field), and add five ballfields. The old pool would be moved to land between the Senior Center and Patriot Park along with tennis courts.
Finally, the high school
Dr. Cleveland returned to the podium to explain how the current high school, built in 1973 for a 1,200 student capacity and undergoing 8 additions since then–most recently to add the alternative school in 2008–could not be enlarged easily at its current location, which is hemmed in by a steep grade to the rear and the floodway from Shades Creek in the front. Can a high school of 1,400-1,600 students be expected to function well in this location, he asked? The answer was obviously, no.
The first hour presentation was accompanied by several offers to answer questions and a promise to post the entire slideshow, demographics, and maps on the Homewood City Schools website, beginning tomorrow.