The building is small, and the drainage is a challenge. That was the part of the discussion about the West Broad Street property during a meeting of the Citizens Oversight Committee for ESPLOST, the Clarke County School District’s sales tax for capital projects that is paying to renovate the Jim Crow-era school. The committee met on Mar. 17 remotely because of concern generated by the coronavirus crisis, said committee members.
According to chairman Alex Sams, ESPLOST Director John Gilbreath—who talked about the size of the buildings and the drainage—and his staff will come up with a proposal on West Broad that will be presented to the Board of Education’s Property Committee, chaired by board member Charles Worthy. Interim Superintendent Xernona Thomas said there are tentative plans for a property committee meeting to discuss the use of West Broad and the location for early learning facilities. At press time, that meeting had yet to be scheduled.
For other projects involving the COC—such as Hilsman Middle School—there have been communities of school administrators, teachers, students and parents involved in the process of deciding what features should be included in the new schools, said Sams. Since the West Broad Street buildings haven’t housed a school in many years, there is no principal, teachers, students or families directly involved. “We have to find stakeholders,” he said.
CCSD Facilities Director Dexter Fisher will find 10 people to make up the committee. The BOE wants two board members on the committee, Sams said, and he recommended that a COC member be included as well. He also wants nearby residents and those who might send children or grandchildren to the facility, which is slated to be turned into an early learning center for Head Start, Early Head Start and pre-K students.
There have been two meetings with architects and residents to talk about possible uses of the two buildings on the site, one built in 1938 and another in the 1950s. If the board decides to pursue siting an early learning center on the property, for any public school students, they would need the approval of the Georgia Department of Education. The DOE specifies that five acres is the minimum size for an early learning center, and the West Broad property is only three acres.
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