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New Trussville elementary school construction would cost about $16 million

By Gary Lloyd

A Tennessee-based architect last Thursday told Trussville residents and Trussville City Schools officials that constructing a new elementary school in the Magnolia Place area would cost about $16 million.

Michael Brady of Michael Brady Inc. said renovating the old Hewitt-Trussville Middle School on Parkway Drive would cost about $17 million.

Brady said a new school would be all brick on the outside and the windows would be insulated glass.

“It’s built for longevity,” he said.

Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill said there is “certainly” a need for a new elementary school. Paine Primary School has a capacity of 774 students but currently houses 913. There are five portable classrooms on the site. Paine Intermediate School has a capacity of 785 students but currently houses 941. There are eight portable classrooms on site.

“I hate portables,” Brady said. “They’re not good for teaching. They’re not safe.”

A steering committee has recommended that the Magnolia Place area is the best for a new school. The area sits on 39 acres. The land the old middle school sits on covers 6.4 acres. The state recommends new school sites be built on at least 12 acres of land, Neill said. Building in the Magnolia Place area would leave room for another middle school in the future, should there be a need for one.

A steering committee favors the Magnolia Place area over the old Hewitt-Trussville Middle School, shown here, for a new elementary school in Trussville.
photo by Gary Lloyd

“Obviously it does make sense to put a school in this area,” Trussville City Schools Finance Director Jim Kirkland said of the Magnolia Place area.

Daniel Bayse, president of the Magnolia Place Homeowners Association, said the residents of the subdivision he has spoken with are in favor of a new school near the neighborhood.

“We’re behind it,” Bayse said.

Some parents expressed concerns Thursday about splitting up students on different sides of the city. They don’t want the new school to create a “stigma” about some children going to school “on the other side of the tracks.”

“The division is troubling to me,” one parent said.

Paine Primary School Principal Betsy Schmitt said that shouldn’t be a problem because a lot of students at Paine don’t know others in their own grade because of grade sizes.

“Our kids are going to be very resilient about it,” she said.

Neill said a new campus would be similar to the Paine campus on Highway 11.

Rough economic times for federal and state governments may leave the school system with little additional funding. The cities of Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills have ad valorem taxes at a slightly higher rate than Trussville, which helps support their schools. Trussville’s is at five mills, which produces $1.5 million for the city, said Trussville Mayor Gene Melton. Melton did not propose an increase, and Trussville residents would have to vote in favor of an increase, should the possibility arise in the future. Residents in 2010 voted down a possible increase that would have gone toward funding for schools and city services.

There will be another public hearing about the possible school site Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at Hewitt-Trussville High School’s Performing Arts Center.

Trussville City Councilman Anthony Montalto, who served as the old middle school’s principal for nine years, said he wants the building on Parkway Drive to be a school again in the future. He said he will share his concerns about the Magnolia Place site at Tuesday’s hearing.

Melton said if the Trussville City Board of Education approves the Magnolia Place site for the school, then he would want the former middle school to be improved to serve as a community center used for “multiple things.”

“I’ve got all kinds of visions of what it could be,” Melton said, noting the building’s use would be pending Trussville City Council approval.

The board of education is expected to vote on a site for the school at its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Central Office.

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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