Photo courtesy of Jason Gaston.
Berry High School
Former Berry High School campus.
The former Berry High School campus on Columbiana Road is no longer Buccaneer or Jaguar territory.
The Hoover school system today closed the sale of the 38.5-acre campus to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education for $11 million, so the property is now in Rebel hands.
The closing went as planned and was very uneventful, Hoover school board President Stephen Presley said.
“I think it’s a win for everybody,” Presley said. A piece of property that wasn’t being utilized to its fullest potential is now in the hands of someone that has greater use for it, Presley said.
The campus from 1965 to 1994 was home to Berry High School until the Hoover school board built and opened Hoover High School. Berry then was converted to a middle school, which finished its relocation to land next to Spain Park High School in 2006.
For the 2008-09 school year, the campus was home to Shades Mountain Elementary School while Shades Mountain was renovated, and more recently it was home to the Crossroads alternative school and some central office employees for the Hoover school district.
Hoover school officials considered various uses of the property but determined it would be too costly to renovate and is not in the most desired location for Hoover’s current needs.
“We know this historic property will prove important to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education as it works through continued planning and long-range facility development,” Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy said in a press release. “As our school system advances, we continue the work of our own long-range planning. Today’s finalized transaction provides another step forward in that process.”
Before the sale could be completed, it had to be approved by a federal judge who oversees a decades-old desegregation lawsuit. The city of Hoover also had to de-annex the property and the city of Vestavia Hills had to annex it before the sale could close. The Vestavia Hills City Council completed annexation of the property on Friday.
Vestavia Hills school officials have not yet decided how they will utilize the campus, but they know they need it to provide for a growing school population, school officials have said.
The Vestavia Hills school district paid for the Berry campus with part of $69 million it recently borrowed for facility improvements. The rest of the money will go toward renovations at the Berry campus and other construction projects throughout the school district, officials said.
One “anchor idea” being considered for the Berry campus is to move Pizitz Middle School to the Berry campus, and move Vestavia Hills Elementary Central to the Pizitz campus, since Berry was built as a middle school or small high school. Central would then close, alleviating the need for costly renovations to bring the school up to a more desirable condition.
However, school officials emphasize no decision has been made. They have started holding community meetings regarding facilities planning, and four more are planned as of now:
- Oct. 24, noon in the Vestavia Hills High School auditorium
- Oct. 27, noon in the Louis Pizitz Middle School media center
- Nov. 1, 6 p.m. in the Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights media center
- Nov. 3, noon in the Liberty Park Middle School media center