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Sprayberry Students Find a New Home

20 Apr 2015

A drawing on the sidewalk of Lloyd Wood Middle School reminds students to “Dream.”

By Cokie Thompson

Every spring brings fresh life, but the spring of 2016 will bring something extra special to Tuscaloosa County Schools and the families they serve.

The Tuscaloosa County School System is preparing to renovate what was once Lloyd Wood Middle School for its new Sprayberry Learning Center. Sprayberry serves students in the county who have multiple disabilities, in addition to housing several of the county’s alternative classes.

The center has grown considerably since its inception in the 1970s after the first Americans with Disabilities Act regulations went into effect. Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford said at the time, no one could have foreseen the number of students they would now be serving, specifically those in wheelchairs.

 

“As soon as I told some of the parents, it was just amazing to hear them say, ‘Dr. Swinford, you know we’ve been asking for this,’” Swinford said.

Carla Allen is the president of the Sprayberry Parent Teacher Organization. Her daughter has attended Sprayberry since she was three.

“When Sprayberry was built, most students were ambulatory,” Allen said. “The classrooms are just not big enough.”

Although the renovations will be complete before the end of the 2015 - 2016 school year, probably around spring break, the students, faculty and staff will not move to Lloyd Wood until the following school year. Swinford said it’s important to keep the students’ lives consistent.

“Just one week off and then come back to a new school and then just for two, three months maybe, and then go back on summer vacation is just too much for them,” Swinford said.

When the renovations are complete, Swinford said she hopes for a big celebration for the students. The entire system will be involved, including a banner for the students to run through from the Tuscaloosa County High cheerleaders. 

“The kids are planning for the Sprayberry kids, which is the beauty of my school system, where my kids are very united,” Swinford said. “They don’t see differences.”

Sprayberry Principal Neal Guy said the new facilities will help better serve their current student body. Some of the changes include a covered entrance for rainy days and bigger playgrounds for students of all ages.

“It’s very specific to the needs of the population of students that we have,” Guy said. “The major change will be that all the alternative classes for the entire county will be on one campus.”

Sprayberry currently houses some of the alternative classes for the county, but classes are also at Holt High and Tuscaloosa County High. In addition to the alternative program and new facilities for Sprayberry, the renovated facility will include some space for career and technical sources. These courses will also be open to students who don’t attend Sprayberry through the alternative or disability programs.

“We’re excited about the whole prospect and looking forward to it,” Guy said.

When the facility is completed, Carla Allen said she expects there will be plenty of opportunity for the community to see it. She said current facility doesn’t necessarily look like a happy place, but the new one will be a breath of fresh air for the community.

“It’s going to be fabulous,” Allen said. “I wish it was here yesterday.”

Photo: Christopher Chase Edmunds

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