|City/Town: • Birmingham|
|Location Class: • Educational|
|Built: • 1928 | Abandoned: • ~2016|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • David Bulit|
The Ernest F. Bush Middle School originally opened as Ensley School, built in 1901 by the City of Ensley and designed by architect William Ernest Spink. With a capacity for 600 students, the two-story brick schoolhouse featured a hipped roof with towers and tall arched windows, but the building lacked a lunchroom which forced students to bring their own lunches and ate in the classrooms or outside.
In 1903, the school was renamed the Ernest F. Bush School, named after the first superintendent for schools in Ensley. When Ensley was annexed into the city of Birmingham and became part of the Birmingham City Schools system in 1910. The high school grades were transferred to the newly built Ensley High School that same year.
Ernest F. Bush Middle School
In 1923, the Birmingham Board of Education’s “Birmingham School Survey” found that the school was overpopulated and deeply in need of repairs. F.B. Dressler of the U.S. Bureau of Education reported that the building was “not suitable for further service,” stating that “the whole building reveals decrepitude and decay and should be abandoned at the earliest possible moment.” Following his advice, the school board commissioned David O. Whilldin to design a new school building adjacent to Ensley High School and by 1928, the new Ernest F. Bush Middle School replaced the old school building. Additions to the school would be constructed in 1952, 1957, and sometime in the 1990s.
In 2009, a $7 million renovation was planned for Council Elementary School, but it was suggested by interim superintendent Barbara Allen that the student body should be transferred to Bush Middle School to form a new K-8 school. The students from Council Elementary were transferred to Bush in 2013, and later that same year, Bush K-8 School was deemed a “failing school.” The board proposed allocating $7 million to improving the existing building in lieu of constructing an entirely new school building. Some parents argued against the decision, that the community was promised a new school and that the renovations would not allow improvements to parking, playgrounds, or athletic fields.
In June 2014, the board moved forward with the renovation and made arrangements to bus students to the recently-closed Center Street Middle School. Architect Nolanda Hatcher prepared bid documents and presented them in a public meeting on August 31, 2016, however, all the construction bids were significantly more than the $6.5 million budget. Earlier that year, superintendent Kelly Castlin-Gacutan recommended shelving the renovation plans and putting the money into deferred maintenance system-wide. Many years later, the school building remains in serious disrepair with much-needed repairs that would far surpass any budget the school board could afford.