Setting Sites on Brunson

Brunson Elementary is the residential school for the downtown neighborhoods of West End, West Highlands and parts of Ardmore. Today, due to the steadfast efforts of its principal, Jeff Faullin, implementation of a STEM magnet program, a transitional bilingual program, and the HAG program, Brunson attracts an economically and racially diverse community from across the district — a rare accomplishment in our school choice system.

After years of deteriorating conditions and being passed over for the 2006 bond, a new building for Brunson finally secured a well-deserved spot on the 2016 bond. But the site for a new school remains a mystery.

A history of Brunson’s site selection process to date:

November 2009 WSFCS announced a plan to close Brunson Elementary and bus its entire residential population to a merged school on the campus of Cook Elementary, leaving the downtown area without a residential elementary school. Public meetings were held at both Brunson and Cook with notice to the neighborhoods. The Brunson community was strongly opposed; the Cook community was even more united in opposition. The merger plan was shelved.

Fall 2010 Without notice to parents at either school, the school board voted to reassign Brunson residential students to Cook. If non-HAG Brunson students wished to enroll or remain enrolled at their school, they would now be required to file a magnet application. Adding to the frustration, the magnet application deadline had already passed before any attempt was made to contact Brunson families.

February 2011 In response to a petition to the school board, a Brunson parent group was formed to work with board members to seek an alternative solution that would ensure the school’s future. Parents also raised funds to launch the school’s STEM magnet program, which remains a success to this day.

Spring 2011 The Brunson parent group compiled a list of public properties available in the downtown area. Five suitable sites were identified. These included the former YWCA site on Glade Street; a site at the Children’s Home; the hill next to Reynolds Auditorium; and two options adjacent to Hanes Park between Wiley school and the Reynolds gyms. WS/FCS planners presented drawings for relocating Brunson to the three sites property already owned by the district. WSFCS Brunson Relocation at Wiley or Reynolds

One of the relocation options presented by WSFCS to build Brunson at Wiley in 2011. Find the full plan linked in the text above titled “WSFCS Brunson Relocation at Wiley or Reynolds.”

January 19, 2012 Despite previous claims that rebuilding Brunson at its existing location was not possible because it was in flood plain, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Darrell Walker held a community meeting at Fries Moravian Church to present a plan to rebuild Brunson at Brunson. His proposed multi-story building was dubbed the “school on stilts” by the Journal.

After reassuring Brunson parents that the downtown area could and would continue to have a residential elementary school, Mr. Walker introduced a private citizen who shared a very different proposal for the Wiley site — suggesting that it be set aside for a privately funded football stadium. Brunson parents implored staff not to reduce the already scant site options until Brunson’s future was secure. Brunson parent committee members were told publicly that nothing would be done with the property adjacent to Wiley (no stadium or other use) until there was a plan to provide an elementary school within the Downtown area.

Brunson parents implored staff not to reduce the already scant site options until Brunson’s future was secure.

May 2016 Both Brunson and a stadium for Reynolds were under consideration for the upcoming bond list. According to Journal coverage, Bill Powell called rebuilding Brunson [at Brunson] “a very viable solution if you want to build downtown,” but some board members were skeptical. That included Buddy Collins, who called the “school on stilts” a potential “50-year mistake.” As for covering the cost of demolishing and rebuilding Wiley gym to make way for the stadium, Collins said, “it doesn’t happen unless they [Home Field Advantage] come up with enough money to make the project happen.”

Bond discussions made it apparent that the Wiley site and any future prospects for it had been ceded to the private group, Home Field Advantage, despite past reassurances to the Brunson community that it be retained as an option until Brunson’s future was secured.

November 2016 Brunson was included on the 2016 bond and funds were set aside to build the new school. The site under consideration, however, was withheld from the community. The district’s explanation for keeping the site a secret was to ensure there were no pressures that might increase the cost of the site. Find a full list of bond projects here.

January 22, 2019 The school board’s building & grounds committee discussed shuffling 2016 bond priorities to accelerate the demolition of the Wiley gym, apparently to make way for the proposed stadium, even though fundraising efforts for the project had been stalled $5 million short of its goal for four years. When asked whether this would affect the position of the Brunson project on the 2016 bond, Board member Leah Crowley said, “Brunson does not have property.”

February 2019 The School Board arranged community meetings with Ashley Elementary and Brunson Elementary to discuss the future of the two schools. Two meetings were scheduled for Ashley Elementary. The Journal provided coverage of the Monday, February 18 meeting. A community meeting to discuss the future of Brunson will be held on February 25, at 6 p.m.

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