Bush K-8 School

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Bush K-8 School
BCS small logo.png Birmingham City Schools
Years 1901present
Location 1112 25th Street Ensley, (map)
Grades K-8
Principal Sakema Porterfield
Enrollment 475 (2012)
Colors blue & gold
Mascot Bulldogs
Website bhamcityschools.org

Ernest F. Bush K-8 School (originally Ensley School) is a school serving Kindergarten through eighth grade in the Birmingham City Schools system located at 1112 25th Street Ensley in Ensley. The principal is Sakema Porterfield.

Gymnasium at Bush Middle School in 2018. Photo by Austin H. Stone.

The first Ensley School was built in 1901 by the City of Ensley at the corner of Avenue G and 23rd Street. It was financed under the provisions of the newly-ratified Alabama Constitution of 1901. A $7,000 loan for school construction was repaid from a special tax on saloons.

The cornerstone of the new building was laid on August 14, 1901 and construction was completed in October of that same year. The two-story brick schoolhouse was designed by architect William Spink for 600 pupils. It featured a hipped roof with towers marking the inside corners where the wings joined the central building. Tall arched windows punctuated the thick walls at regular intervals. One thing the school lacked was a lunchroom. Students brought their own lunches and ate in the classrooms or outdoors. The opening of a candy shop across the street provided an opportunity to supplement their lunches with sweets.

By 1903 it was renamed for Ernest Forrest Bush, the first superintendent of schools for Ensley. Ensley School became part of the Birmingham City Schools system in 1910 when Ensley was annexed as part of the Greater Birmingham consolidation. The high school grades were transferred to the new Ensley High School the same year.

The Birmingham Board of Education's "Birmingham School Survey" of 1923 found that the 22-year-old school was serving 703 students in the first through seventh grades. A report on the physical condition of the school by F. B. Dressler of the U.S. Bureau of Education found the building "not suitable for further service", stating that "the whole building reveals decrepitude and decay and should be abandoned at the earliest possible moment."

The board followed that advice and immediately commissioned architect David O. Whilldin to design a new Bush School to be built adjacent to Ensley High School. After an addition was completed in 1928 the school fully replaced the older Ensley School. Further additions were completed in 1952 and 1957.

In 1961 the board approved the addition of a gymnasium and three classrooms at the school. The addition was designed by Henry Sprott Long and constructed by Henry W. Greene for $83,000. Another expansion was completed in the 1990s.

In 2009 plans were made for $7 million in renovations to Councill Elementary, but interim superintendent Barbara Allen suggested joining the student body with that of Bush Middle School in a new K-8 school. Councill students were transferred to Bush in 2013. That same year, Bush K-8 School was deemed a "failing school," under the terms of the Alabama Accountability Act permitting parents to claim tax credits to transfer students to another school.

In early 2014 the board reconsidered the proposal to build a new school, proposing to apply $7 million toward renovating and upgrading the existing building. Some parents opposed the change in plans, arguing that the community had been promised a new school, that the renovation would not allow for pre-kindergarten program, parking improvements, and improvements to playgrounds and athletic fields. Some also complained that students were getting sick in the existing building, possibly from mold. An investigation led by the Jefferson County Health Department found "a single, isolated instance" of mold in a locked supply closet and removed it.

In June of that year the Board approved going forward with the renovation plan and made arrangements to bus students to the recently-closed Center Street Middle School until it was completed. Some residents petitioned to reopen the former Councill Elementary, but Superintendent Craig Witherspoon responded that it was in poorer condition than Center Street.

Architect Nolanda Hatcher prepared bid documents including several options for renovations, which were presented in a public meeting on August 31, 2016. When construction bids were submitted, however, they were all significantly more than the $6.5 million budget, even without additional options. Superintendent Kelly Castlin-Gacutan recommended in July 2016 that the renovation be shelved and the budgeted funds rolled back into deferred maintenance needs system-wide. Her handling of the decision caused friction with community leaders and is thought to have factored into her dismissal by the Board of Education in September.



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