COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A new beginning is underway for a historic landmark and educational hub in Columbus. It's already been years in the making.
"We want Claflin to have the impact today, that it had 150 years ago,"said Reverend Richard Jessie, executive director of Friends of Historic Claflin (FHC).
In two weeks, construction crews will begin rebuilding the Claflin School and make room for families to find a new home.
While the building was abandoned almost a decade ago, the hard work of FHC and its partnership with Oracle Consulting, based in Kentucky, will help convert the dilapidated building into 44 affordable apartment units for working families.
The lower rent offered to potential tenants comes as a result of tax credits Oracle has received to keep the rooms at a set rate.
Jessie said his group and fellow supporters have found a new purpose for his old elementary school.
"We have identified some needs," Jessie said, "and we're going to meet those needs."
Crews are scheduled to gut the school's rundown interior, restore the structure to keep its historic feel, and create additional spaces dedicated to education.
Jessie said families who move in will benefit from access to continuing education, reading programs, and frequent health screenings provided by local partner organizations.
"This is about employment, about education," he said. "[We] have developed an educational component for Claflin, and we're just excited about the potential here and about what we expect to do with the tenants."
Plans to break ground will be released to the public with a tentative starting date on August 30. Jessie said he hopes the Columbus community will come out to celebrate the school's future and honor its rich past, as the school marks its 150th anniversary with what he calls a "jubilee."
"You can just imagine, three years after slavery, educating slaves for the first time - not only children, but the adults as well," Jessie said.
"Claflin has a wonderful part in history, and particularly in education."