Photo courtesy of Bluff Park Drone
Old Berry drone photo 1
The Hoover Board of Education voted to sell the former Berry High School campus on Columbiana Road to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education on Monday, April 18, 2016.
A federal judge in Birmingham today approved the sale of the former Berry High School campus from the Hoover school system to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education.
But U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala had to sign off on the deal for it to go through because a decades-old Jefferson County desegregation court order requires federal court approval before any school site can be sold.
Officials from the Hoover and Vestavia Hills school systems issued statements indicating they are pleased with the decision and looking forward to making progress on the transition of the campus.
“Many in our community fondly remember their time at W. A. Berry High School,” Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy said in a press release. “It’s a school rich in history … a place where memories of a lifetime were made. We are pleased that the Vestavia Hills Board of Education has chosen to purchase this campus and to revitalize it so that more students may benefit from its existence and more lifetime memories can be made."
When the school board voted to sell the property, Murphy said she considered that location for a third high school, a career technical center and a fine arts center, among other uses.
But the cost of renovating the facility to bring it up to code and make it useful for Hoover would be significant, Murphy said. And as a third high school, it would pale significantly in comparison to Hoover’s current two high schools — Hoover and Spain Park, she said.
Plus, the school is on the far edge of Hoover and almost surrounded by the city of Vestavia Hills, Murphy said.
The Vestavia Hills school board made a fair and reasonable offer, and Hoover can take that money and use it for another school site that better suits Hoover’s needs, she said.
In recent years, Hoover has been using the old Berry High campus for its Crossroads alternative school, which serves students in the Second Chance disciplinary program and New Beginnings program for students who needed a smaller school learning environment that Hoover’s high schools offer.
But the Crossroads School this year moved back to its former site at Hoover High School, school system spokesman Jason Gaston said.
Photo by Jon Anderson.
The “Quest for Knowledge” mural on the side of the former Berry High School is a source of pride for many people in the Hoover community, and the Vestavia Hills schools superintendent said it will be treated with honor and respect.
Vestavia Hills Superintendent Sheila Phillips, in a news release, thanked the Hoover school board and city of Hoover for the opportunity to work jointly for the good of both school systems.
"I also want to thank our own city leaders who have contributed so greatly to our acquisition of the Berry campus,” Phillips said.
The Vestavia Hills City Council agreed to chip in $2 million toward the purchase price.
“We believe this facility will benefit all Vestavia Hills children and residents as we work together to preserve and revitalize the legacy of this great school and stadium,” Phillips said.
Vestavia Hills officials plan to hold community forums and stakeholder focus groups and do community surveys to come up with a facilities plan for the Berry campus, Phillips said. The first two community forums will be Sept. 8 at noon and again at 6 p.m. at the Vestavia Hills Board of Education building on U.S. 31. Additional meeting times and stakeholder focus groups will be announced at a later date.
“We will move forward with these conversations thoughtfully and methodically to ensure all our stakeholders are heard in the months ahead,” Phillips said.