A new solution to an old problem. The former Allis Elementary School has found a new home on Madison’s southside with the new school building and name.
Southside Elementary School, formerly Allis Elementary, has been in the works since voters approved a school district spending referendum in 2020. Students in the area Southside Elementary School served were bussed out to the eastside to meet the needs of low enrollment schools there, while the south side saw a population boom without a school available to serve the population increase. Now as the new school year gets underway today, Southside Elementary opens its doors and residents of the area finally get an elementary school dedicated to them.
“What we’re really the most excited about (is) it’s not only giving them a new school, but we’re giving them a new school that features so much of what the community wanted in the space — even down to the colors.” Southside Elementary principal Candace Terrell said in an interview. “We had community panels from the very start of the process. They were able to really give input on colors, the need for lighting, the need for it to flow. A lot of what you’ll see is a representation of what the community wanted.”
The input from the community shaped how Southside Elementary would look and feel. One of the most direct needs from the community was the need for natural lighting and open space. Meeting that demand is best exemplified in the school’s library.
The library is a multi use, hub-style area for the school. The area is well illuminated on the school’s second floor with the entirety of its outward facing walls being windows. The need for everything to flow, one of the community’s requests, is captured through the sliding glass panel doors that open to double the space of the library. The flow keeps the library an accessible area for students to work without having to move to a separate room.
“We created this design so that it opens — our sliding panels that are clear — that allows for that through space. Often when we have events, they may start in the community hub of our library… but then our families would be able to then collectively transition into our spaces for activities,” Terrell said.
At the former space in Allis, community events often needed to be divided into multiple spaces to accommodate activities in its former limited space. Events would have to move through multiple floors of the old school, but the new space allows things to be centralized, according to Terrell.
Terrell is excited about the new space, and the ability to serve the southside community better is something she is proud of. But the most pivotal thing for Southside Madison’s principal is being able to give Madison’s marginalized population a space of their own.
Terrell is from Milwaukee. She grew up in the 53206 ZIP code, an area with the highest incarceration rate for Black men in the nation, and experienced the full strength of growing up in a marginalized community in Milwaukee.
“Coming from a very highly marginalized city myself… I think it’s a pivotal point in my career to be able to provide an opportunity and an experience like this for so many of color that come from marginalized situations such as myself,” Terrell said. “I think that’s one of the largest things I’m most excited about.”