As Clarke County school officials look to reshuffle overcrowded facilities and better utilize others, Superintendent Demond Means will unveil his vision for the West Broad School at a school board workshop Nov. 2 and 3.
The Friday night and Saturday morning workshops will cover board development and an analysis of district facilities and space allocation, according to board President Jared Bybee. While that may not sound sexy, part of the discussion will involve the West Broad School, a long-vacant segregation-era African-American school that has been the topic of much community debate over how it should be used after renovation and whether to keep the Athens Land Trust’s community garden and farmers market on the property.
The workshops are open to the public, although at an awkward time, and “I’m hoping to get as many people out as I can,” Link said.
Whatever Means proposes will be the jumping-off point for a longer conversation, Bybee said. “We’ve talked briefly about some outlines, but I’m anticipating the plan like everyone else.”
The West Broad School is only part of the puzzle. The Athens Community Career Academy in the H.T. Edwards Building needs more space. But it shares the building with central office staff, some of whom are also housed at Whitehead Road Elementary School since CCSD sold its old Mitchell Bridge headquarters in 2016.
Former superintendent Philip Lanoue had proposed moving administrators into the West Broad School—a plan that met with opposition from neighborhood residents because it would have involved paving over the garden for a parking lot. Later, a space needs assessment found that the building is not big enough, anyway.
Earlier this year, the board solicited proposals from the public. The Athens Land Trust proposed restoring the historic buildings and turning the property into a community center, including a commercial kitchen, classrooms, conference rooms, a wood shop, a health clinic, an auditorium, basketball courts and an outdoor stage, while preserving the garden and Saturday farmers market. This would be funded by $3.2 million from Athens-Clarke County’s SPLOST 2012 earmarked for “youth development” and matching grants raised by the land trust.
A proposal from the Northeast Georgia Business Alliance (a black chamber-of-commerce-type organization) and the Athens High and Burney-Harris alumni groups would include a museum, recording studio, commercial space, after-school programs, a community kitchen and business incubator, and would preserve the garden. However, that proposal had no funding source.
CCSD also submitted its own proposal. It includes additional space for early childhood education (which has a waiting list to get into), a clinic, a parent information center and space for disciplinary hearings that will offer students more privacy than holding them in schools, but made no mention of the garden.
At a May meeting, the board asked Means to take elements from each proposal and make a recommendation at a later date.
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