Shades Cahaba Elementary School
Shades Cahaba Elementary School, located at 3001 Independence Drive on the southeast corner of the intersection with Hollywood Boulevard, is one of three elementary schools in Homewood City Schools serving grades kindergarten through fifth. It primarily serves households in the eastern portion of Homewood, including the neighborhoods of Hollywood and Rosedale. The school mascot is an owl and the school colors are dark green and white. Enrollment in 2016 was 578 students. The principal is John Lowry.
The Shades Cahaba building originally opened as Shades Cahaba High School in 1920. When the school opened, elementary school students from nearby Union Hill Methodist Episcopal School moved into a wooden, two-room building on the high school's property, just east of it. Numerous improvements and some additions were made to the main building over the following years, which eventually allowed the 3rd through 6th grade students to be moved to the main building. In 1928, the two schools were placed under the same administration and both were known by the Shades Cahaba name, although it was grades 7th through 12th that were considered the high school.
While improvements were made to the existing facility over the years, the student population topped 1,000 by the mid-forties and the citizens of Homewood began demanding a new school to handle the overcrowding. The county school board eventually agreed. However, they declared the new school would be named Shades Valley High School and it opened in 1949. At that point, Shades Cahaba became strictly an elementary school.
The school's mascot was a 900-pound, cast-concrete owl was perched atop the middle gable of the building, above the northern entrance facing Hollywood Boulevard. With the school's conversion, the concrete owl was removed in 1949 for unknown reasons. After spending several years in county storage, it was sold to a private party and wound up in a vacant lot. After its rediscovery, it was eventually restored to its original perch in the late 1970s.
Shortly after the school's conversion, the county and city both provided a total of $67,000 for a new auditorium and gymnasium. In the early 1950s, when Montgomery Highway was widened, a pedestrian tunnel was built out of concern for students' safety. Hill Food Stores received $20,000 for the portion of its parking lot required for the western entry. The tunnel was used to film one of the scenes of the 1988 film, The Verne Miller Story.
In the 1960s, Shades Cahaba was the only public school in the area offering special education classes. In 1970, when Homewood finally broke away from the county school system, Shades Cahaba became one of Homewood City Schools' three elementary schools.
Another building renovation in the early 1990's moved the main entrance from the side facing Hollywood Boulevard to what had been a back corner, facing southwest to Independence Drive at about a 45 degree angle.
- R. B. Nichols, 1949–1951 (previously principal of Shades Cahaba High School)
- Lelton Cobb, 1951–c. 1965
- Margaret Vines, c. 1965–1970
- Louis LeVaughn, 1970–1981
- Mike Miller, 1981–1989
- Karen DeLano, 1989–2000
- Sue Grogan, 2000–2013
- John Lowry, 2013–present
- United States Department of Education "Blue Ribbon School", 1993–94
- United States Department of Education "Blue Ribbon School", 2015–16
- "Proposal to widen Montgomery Highway is being kicked around" (March 1952) Birmingham News - via Birmingham Rewound
- Summe, Sheryl Spradling. (2001). Homewood: The Life of a City. Homewood, AL: Friends of the Homewood Public Library.
- Rodriguez, Ana (April 23, 2013). "Hall-Kent, Shades Cahaba elementary school principals announce retirement." The Birmingham News.
- Wright, Shawn (October 14, 2019). "Shawn Wright Was Wrong! – Principals." Shades Cahaba Oral History Project.