The Tuscaloosa City Schools system is working to transform a closed elementary school in the West End into a hub for nonprofit organizations in the area, a TCS spokesperson said Wednesday.

Lydia Seabol Avant, the Director of Public Relations for the school system, said in a press release that leaders in the system aim to renovate the Stillman Heights elementary school into the tentatively named New Heights Community Resource Center.

The space on 21st Street in West Tuscaloosa was home to the elementary school from 1963 until the facility closed in 2006 as part of a restructuring of city schools that were underperforming academically.

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The building now houses TCS' STARS Academy, an alternative program for students in the system who have committed serious "Class III" violations of Student Code of Conduct, such as assault, possession of weapons on school property, major theft and more.

The STARS Academy will remain in the building, but if all goes according to plan, at least five nonprofit organizations will also move into the space to better serve the students there and throughout the entire system.

(Tuscaloosa City Schools)
(Tuscaloosa City Schools)

Six organizations -- the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, Schoolyard Roots, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, Five Horizons Health, the Kristen Amerson Foundation and Fuerza Multicultral de Tuscaloosa -- have already committed to relocating into the planned community center.

Dr. Janet Sherrod, the executive director of learning supports in the TCS system, said in a press release that having so many outstanding resources housed in the same place will allow everyone to work closely together and better serve students and their families.

Dr. Mike Daria, the system's superintendent, said plans for the center were proposed last year to better utilize space already owned by the system and enhance collaboration between academic institutions and area nonprofits aimed at reducing homelessness, treating mental health issues and other "whole-child" measures that may normally fall outside the system's scope of responsibility.

“This will provide consistent, direct services to our students and their families, while giving these nonprofits office space at a low cost to help them serve the community,” Daria said.

The project will be funded by system money set aside for this project, with possible additions to come later, like the renovation of upstairs in the building and the construction of a public playground onsite.

Already budgeted are renovations to the building's library and gymnasium.

The planned community center may open to the nonprofits that will be focused there as early as this fall, Daria said.

“We think this work is really worth it, we believe it is the right work and have a lot of incredible partners in the community to work with who are committed to this,” Daria said. “We are still looking for agencies to take part in this center, as well as others who can help us bring this vision to fruition, as the need is so great.”

For updates on the development of the center as they become available, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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