A year after fire, Alabama high school yearns for permanent campus

Aug. 19, 2019
An August 2018 fire at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Ala. forced it to relocate to a former elementary school.

A year after a fire forced Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Ala., to relocate, students and staff remain in a former elementary school unsuited to the needs of students and staff.

The Montgomoery Advertiser reports that since the Aug. 18, 2018, fire at their Union Street campus, students and faculty have coped with an inadequate setting at the former Hayneville Road Elementary School building.  Principal Quesha Starks says the temporary campus does not meet students' needs.

Among the buildng's deficiencies:

  • The dance studio does not have sprung floors — the kind that absorb shocks specifically made for dancing and other indoor sports — causing injuries on a regular basis.
  • There are just two stairwells in the building, with railings that were placed at the height of elementary students, rather than high schoolers. The congestion between periods is not just an annoyance, but a potential threat.
  • The bathrooms were designed for younger — and smaller — students, meaning privacy between stalls is compromised.
  • The only space the photography magnet could set up a darkroom happened to be the janitor’s closet.
  • The science classroom doesn’t have a science lab, meaning high school chemistry students can’t do experiments.

This is not the first time the creative arts high school has functioned in a temporary location. The Union Street campus that was damaged by fire also was meant to be temporary, but nearly two decades passed, and a true home never came.

Jazmyne Isaac, the high school's student government association president, criticized the school board earlier in the summer after it approved plans to consolidate central offices in part of the Union Street campus while no plans have been developed to find a better home for Booker T. Washington.

"A closed elementary school was repurposed to serve as our temporary home while less than a year later, our restored home was repurposed to become your new home," Isaac told the board. "...For some reason funding can be found to renovate building D of our old campus for a new, consolidated central office facility, but no funding can be allocated for any central real physical classroom science lab at the current location of" Booker T Washington.

"We are respectfully asking for some answers to important questions about the long-term future. Some of these questions have been asked before, but the discussion is muted, and no answers or options have been presented for serious consideration. We feel forgotten and we do not deserve that."

Isaac says her goal is to make sure “this temporary location doesn’t become a 21-year temporary location."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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