Photo Credit: Joshua L. Jones/file
The Clarke County Board of Education voted Thursday night to approve Superintendent Demond Means' controversial plan for an early learning center at the West Broad School.
Means' $10 million proposal includes five to 10 Head Start, Early Head Start and/or pre-K classrooms in a new building, as well as community meeting rooms, an office for students to fill out job and college applications, and a school-based health clinic in the historic portion of the school facing Minor Street.
The vote was 4–2, with Kara Dyckman, Charles Worthy, Linda Davis and LaKeisha Gantt in favor, and John Knox and Greg Davis opposed. Frances Berry was out of town. Patricia Yager abstained. Tawana Mattox, who works for the Athens Land Trust, recused herself—a crucial distinction, because she was counted as not present, meaning only four votes were required to pass Means' plan instead of five.
Davis said he wanted the early learning center to be built at the old Gaines School site, while Knox raised concerns about the escalating cost, and said he favored the ALT's proposal for the property.
The long-vacant school is currently the site of a community garden and farmers market run by the ALT, whose memorandum of understanding with CCSD expires at the end of the month. But Means said he is in talks with the land trust to move the garden to Clarke Middle School and would offer the group space in the new early learning center.