McElwain Elementary School

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McElwain Elementary School
McElwain School.jpg
Active 18992008
School type Public
District Jefferson County (1923-1953)
Birmingham (1953-2008)
Grades K-6
Colors red & blue
Mascot Falcons
Location 4447 Montevallo Road, (map)
Birmingham

McElwain Elementary School was an elementary school in the Birmingham City Schools system located at 4447 Montevallo Road in the Eastwood neighborhood. It was named for the McElwain community that settled the area around the Cahaba Iron Works, founded by Wallace S. McElwain in 1863.

The school, which originally taught grades 1-8, was organized at McElwain Baptist Church in 1899. A schoolhouse was constructed in 1901 on land that Isom Eastis donated for the purpose. It was expanded with a second room in 1904.

Around 1923 the Jefferson County Board of Education took over operation of the McElwain School. A new 3-room brick schoolhouse was constructed in 1926 on land purchased from W. B. Baker from funds raised in the community. Jefferson County reduced the classes to grades 1-6 due to crowding in 1930. In 1941 with funds raised by the Parent-Teacher Association and labor from the Works Progress Administration a new wood-frame addition was built at the end of the building with a lunchroom in the basement.

The county added two classrooms and indoor toilets in 1950. In 1953 the elementary school, with an enrollment of 200, was transferred to Birmingham City Schools. Over the next decade Crestline and Mountaindale saw rapid residential development and enrollment increased to 302 in 1955, 452 in 1957 and 683 in 1960. Eight classrooms, a gymnasium and a larger lunchroom were added over that period.

In 1961 some of the overcrowding at McElwain was relieved with the opening of the new Putnam School, but by 1963 the old school building was evidently in poor repair. The old building was demolished in December 1965 and a new school building opened in September 1966.

Although the system had been officially desegregated in 1964, racial integration of neighborhood schools in outlying sections like Eastern Birmingham was slow to materialize and the District Court ruled in 1981 that the system must take additional steps. McElwain was made into a "magnet school" with a program blending arts and academics. By the end of the 1982-1983 academic year, African American children made up 35% of the schools 361 students.

In 2005 and 2006, with help from Greek-letter organizations at Samford University, McElwain's grounds were re-landscaped and a new playground constructed.

Under the school consolidation plan proposed by acting superintendent Barbara Allen and approved by the Board, McElwain Elementary closed in the Summer of 2008 with students transferring to Avondale Elementary School.

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