City DopeNews

Plans for Early Learning at the West Broad School Fall Through

The courtyard of the West Broad School campus. Credit: Austin Steele

Renovation of the old West Broad School won’t include a health clinic or classrooms for 200 pre-K and Head Start students, and only one of the three buildings on the site will be preserved, according to Clarke County School District officials.

There are physical issues—stormwater pooling, a 50- or 60-inch stormwater line along the back of the building, elevation changes—that make the site “challenging,” John Gilbreath, director of SPLOST facility planning and construction for CCSD, told Flagpole

Gilbreath said the 1938 Minor Street building, originally a school for African-American children during segregation, will be renovated and will have its windows, roofing and siding all replaced. He added that the other two buildings, which date from the 1950s, won’t be preserved. Other buildings could be constructed. “The site is too small for a school, but it’s suitable for a program of some kind, maybe for middle or high school students,” he said. 

Most of the district’s elementary schools each have at least 10 acres, except Barrow and Chase Street, both older schools in urban settings. But both have more than five acres, which is the minimum, according to state Department of Education regulations. West Broad has only three acres, making it an unlikely setting for pre-K or early learning facilities. And since it hasn’t operated as a school for years, it wouldn’t be grandfathered in.

Plans for the early learning center were the brainchild of former superintendent Demond Means, who recommended it over alternative proposals for a community center from the Athens Land Trust and Northeast Georgia Business Alliance. After a controversial vote, the Board of Education budgeted $10 million to transform the West Broad campus and hired Lawrenceville-based architectural firm Lindsay Pope Brayfield and Associates to design plans for the site. 

So far, said BOE member Greg Davis, there isn’t a building committee for the West Broad campus. Greg Davis and colleague Linda Davis will both represent the school board, but as far as he knows, no one from the neighborhood has joined the committee—and the situation concerns him. Every other school construction project has had a building committee made up of parents and residents. Gilbreath, too, said he is concerned that there’s no local building committee, and he blames that situation on the pandemic. The plan is to show a local committee the architects’ proposed plans to get input.