The Trussville Historical Committee met Thursday to hear from school officials regarding plans for a new elementary school. Residents of the Cahaba Village Project were in attendance as well as the general public.
Donnette Plant addressed the gathering and explained the purpose of the meeting.
“In light of the meeting that council and the school board had a few weeks ago (March 4), we decided to get information for what all of the options are for the old Hewitt-Trussville High School,” Plant said. “Tonight is really just about getting information.”
Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill said the school board was considering several options and locations for the new school. One of those options includes tearing down the old school building to make way for a new one. Neill said renovating the historic building is no longer an option. Also under consideration now are the Magnolia Place site, acreage on Roper Tunnel Road and property not yet identified.
Neill told those gathered that a new school was necessary because more than 300 students are currently housed in trailers at the Paine Primary School campus. She said no final decision in the location had been made and that she was seeking public input.
“I value your input and I want your input,” Neill said.
Neill had appointed a steering committee of 15 parents and school personnel to consider the Parkway Drive property and 39 acres near the Magnolia Place subdivision in 2012
. The committee earlier this year recommended the Magnolia Place site after viewing plans for schools on both sites. Those plans included remodeling and expanding the building that formerly housed Hewitt-Trussville middle and high schools, but demolition of the building was not on the table for consideration at that time. The possibility of removing the current structure was first discussed on March 4 at a combined workshop of the Trussville City Council and Trussville City Board of Education.
Architect Michael Brady showed renderings of a new school replacing the old Hewitt-Trussville High School on Parkway Drive. While Brady had shown plans to the council and school board at an earlier meeting, the new drawings reflected an updated design addressing concerns expressed in the March 4 meeting. The new plan shows a one-story school with an identical portico to the current building. Traffic lanes through the flag plaza had also been moved to the side of the plaza.
Residents in attendance were divided on whether or not the building should be torn down to make way for a new school. Fifty-five people attended the meeting and when Neill asked for a show of hands of those opposed to demolishing the school, 22 raised their hands.
Local historian and author of “Trussville Through the Years,” Earl Massey, said Trussville was the only complete community built by the Works Project Administration under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Massey also expressed concerns about the traffic a new school would generate.
“How many of you have been by (the) Paine school in the morning?” Massey asked. “People park on the highway all the way from Deerfoot Parkway to the school. There’s not enough streets in the project to accommodate that many cars.”
Plant also read a letter form Mayor Gene Melton, who could not attend the meeting. In his letter, Melton expressed a desire to save the building, bring it up to code and put it to use within the community, while assisting the school board in finding a more suitable location.
Plant, who lives in the Cahaba Village Project, told the group that she was torn over the potential school, expressing a desire to preserve the historic building balanced against concerns that it would remain empty for a period of time.
Neill said the next step is to appoint a committee to consider all options including additional parcels of land not considered by the original steering committee.