COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The historic Claflin School is in dire need of repair; however, supporters will now have the opportunity to preserve the site after a unanimous vote from the Columbus City Council on Tuesday.
"It was once the hub of this community and we want to make it the social, educational, economic and spiritual hub again," explains Richard Jessie, Friends of the Historic Claflin Committee executive director.
The group, Friends of the Historic Claflin Committee, is leading the revitalization of the school.
Claflin was the area's first public school built for African American students and operated from 1868 to 1973.
"We want to preserve that, not just for the aesthetics, but it sends a message to the community that we value the things in the past that were created to help education and maintain an firm foundation here in the city," explains Natasha David-Walker, Consultant to the Friends of the Historic Claflin Committee
After Tuesday's decision, the group will continue the six phase, $10.3 million project.
The next step will be to apply for restoration grants and begin fundraising.
"Part of the City of Columbus' five year strategic plan was to remove blight and slum and unfortunately this building falls in that category. Now we have the opportunity to see the revitalization in our day and time," says David-Walker
The project is a win-win for the city and residents, for it is not costing the city a penny.
They will lease the property to the Friends of the Historic Claflin Committee for $1.00 a year.
The committee wants the schools to be a place where people can learn about the history, heritage and contributions African Americans have made to the City of Columbus."
"We want to make it a holistic educational complex that would bridge the gap in much of the educational problems we have no and help the whole community," says Jessie.
The committee hopes to host a grand opening in September 2018.