- Associated Press - Saturday, March 26, 2016

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Locals in central Alabama are upset that a strategic plan approved by a school board called for renovating two existing elementary schools rather than replacing the newer ones.

The Tuscaloosa County chapter of the NAACP wants the school board to build a new element in the city’s west side that would receive students from Central and Oakdale elementary schools, the Tuscaloosa News reports (https://bit.ly/22ylQ09) reported. The NAACP promoted a demonstration at the Tuscaloosa City Schools Central office earlier this week to protest the city’s board of education December decision to not build a new school.

An early draft included potential plans for a new $19.2 million school. It would have been built at the former Stillman Heights Elementary School site before the board passed the final version of its plan in December.

Stillman would have served both Central and Oakdale elementary students. However, the plan that got approved did not include a new school, but rather extensive renovations to both schools.

This fall, Central will move into Stillman building as renovations begin at Central. Oakdale will move into the Stillman building the following year when work at Central is completed.

“What we’re doing is simply taking a stand,” said Jerry Carter, president of the Tuscaloosa NAACP. “The west side of town has been taken advantage of ever since there has been a west side of town and it has to stop.”

According to the strategic plan, $7.2 million will go toward renovating Central and $6.4 million will go toward Oakdale, leaving the remaining $5.6 million to be used for projects elsewhere. Central Elementary was first built in 1944, but underwent significant rebuilding and renovation in 1992 while Oakdale, which was built in 1963, received major renovations in 1999.

William Wallace, an elder at the Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church, said a new school in the area would not only help students, but would also benefit the community as a whole.

“A state-of-the-art school in west Tuscaloosa would be a positive influence and make a positive impact for the children in our community,” Wallace said. “Just like we are building schools in other communities, I think it would be unfair for us not to build a school in west Tuscaloosa since it was already in the plan initially.”

Over the last 10 years, the west side of town has seen several new schools built, such as the construction of Central High School in 2006, as well as the completions of Westlawn Middle and Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy in 2008 and 2013 respectively.

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