Tuscaloosa City Schools leaders plan to turn the former site of Stillman Heights Elementary into a community resource center, which will also serve as a hub for local nonprofits.
After Stillman Heights Elementary School closed in 2006, the building on E 21st Street in the West End became the headquarters of STARS Academy, an alternative school program run by Tuscaloosa City Schools.
The plan is for STARS Academy to continue in the building, which will be renamed New Heights Community Resource Center.
TCS leaders hope to open the center this fall with these agencies sharing space with STARS Academy: Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, Schoolyard Roots, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, Five Horizons Health, Kristen Amerson Foundation and Fuerza Tuscaloosa Multicultural. .
“We think this job is so worth it, we think it’s the right job and we have a lot of amazing partners in the community to work with who are committed to it,” Superintendent Mike Daria said in A press release.
In exchange for using the TCS space, agencies will pay a small fee to cover utility and maintenance costs. System leaders want to attract more organizations focused on education, prevention and homelessness services, youth services, mental health and health services.
“This will provide direct and consistent services to our students and their families, while providing these nonprofit organizations with low-cost office space to help them serve the community,” Daria said.
The school library and gymnasium will be renovated and updated with money set aside for the project by TCS. The library will serve as a visitor center and space for community meetings.
The upstairs classrooms will be used by the agencies as offices, although Daria said these rooms need to be renovated and funds for materials and labor still need to be secured.
Daria said he also hopes to build a public playground at the center in the future.
Plans for the center were first proposed last year, with the aim of bringing together community services and working together to make those services more accessible, especially to TCS students and their families.
Daria told school board members at a meeting on April 5 that he believed community partnerships would help the project reach its full potential.
“We are always looking for agencies to participate in this hub, as well as others who can help us realize this vision, because the need is so great,” Daria said.
Eric Wilson, president of the Tuscaloosa City School Board, said he was pleased with Daria’s efforts.
“I appreciate you taking this from concept to reality in less than two years and having the vision,” Wilson said.