Superintendent: 'Schools and communities go together' - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Superintendent: 'Schools and communities go together'

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School leaders told the West Huntsville community Monday they are looking into buyers for closed campuses. School leaders told the West Huntsville community Monday they are looking into buyers for closed campuses.
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Casey Wardynski tried to reassure neighbors that moving thousands of students to new school buildings won't mean blight and decay in the old facilities they leave behind.

"Homeless people have been known to break into those buildings. People sometimes just pass by, they throw a rock," explained city councilman Bill Kling. "They're just kind of a downer for the neighborhood.

"Leaving the schools vacant and leaving it for vagrants, I think was the main concern," said Laura Skelton of the Triana Village Homeowners Association.

People in the West Huntsville community have been especially concerned about the soon-to-be closed McDonnell Elementary, University Place Elementary and Butler High School, as well as Stone Middle and West Huntsville Elementary Schools, which have already shut down.

"We're trying to figure out if there's going to be any additional security for that facility when it does close so we can maintain our neighborhood security," said TVHA member Kimberly Battle.

School district leaders said the search is on for new owners who will make good use of the old buildings. The city already has plans for the old Grissom and Johnson High Schools. An unidentified party may be looking to move into Butler.

"I think we're going to have a good sale for that," said school board member Topper Birney, "and McDonnell. That neighborhood needs something and when McDonnell is closed, I hope there will be something coming in there."

Wardynski said the city's role in finding someone new for its old schools is a new but important one.

"It used to be 'sell off the land and move on.' But that doesn't really help a community, and schools and communities go together," he said.

Dr. Wardynski underscored that the city will keep security systems and police presence going at old campuses to keep them from becoming hubs for vagrancy and crime. He said confidential talks are taking place, and plans for the future of buildings like Butler could be ready to be made public in a few months.

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