By Alyssa Schnugg
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted Thursday to move forward with applying for a grant to help with renovating the old Head Start building in Abbeville.
The board agreed to apply for a grant from the Mississippi Department of History and Archives jointly with the Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors. The grant, if approved would come from federal funds.
The now- Gordon Community and Cultural Center and the old Head Start building, located at 35 County Road 115, were once schools for the black children of Lafayette County before integration was mandated.
A recent engineering study estimates the cost of renovations to be about $1 million.
“We’ve been told that the (Department of History and Archives) usually doesn’t award grants that large but we’re going to ask and see what happens,” said Supervisors and Board President Mike Roberts.
The Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board hopes to turn the old Head Start building into a trade school for adults in the fields of carpentry, electrical and plumbing.
“This has been an ongoing project that the community needs, especially for workforce development,” Roberts said. “The financial scope of it thought is so large, and to be a good steward of taxpayer’s funds we need to seek out federal and grant funds to accomplish this goal.”
Janice Carr, who sits on the Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors, said some details still need to be worked out and will be meeting with County Administrator Lisa Carwyle and County Attorney David O’Donnell on Thursday afternoon to discuss some unanswered issues, like who will control the funds if the grant is approved and whether the Gordon Community board will remain in charge of the building and its programs.
“We appreciate the county for partnering with us to renovate the historical building,” Carr said. “GCCC is honored to be an equal partner with the county in making it possible to be able to apply for the preservation grant.”
The Supervisors approved moving forward with applying for the grant, 4 to 1 with the dissenting vote being Supervisor Brent Larson; however, if the county gets the grant, the Supervisors would still need to vote on whether or not to accept the grant.
The school was built in 1949 and opened to students in January 1950 for grades first through eighth.
A second building was built a few years later for ninth through 12th grades. In the 1960s, a third building was built for grades first through sixth and the original building served as a middle school for seventh and eighth-grade students.
When schools were integrated in the late 1960s, the Abbeville School was closed and its students were transported to the public schools in Oxford.
The school stood deserted for more than 40 years. In the 1970s, the state opened up a Head Start school in the newer of the three buildings. It shut down years later and moved to Oxford where it is now the Mary Cathey Head Start. The second building that served as the high school was demolished in the 1980s.
A group of citizens came together in 2008 to renovate the original school building and formed the GCCC. Using donations only for the renovations, the doors were finally reopened in 2014 to educate students with the formation of Abbeville School Educational Summer Enrichment Camp.
Anyone wishing to donate to GCCC can mail checks to the Gordon Community and Cultural Center, Inc., P.O. Box 42, Abbeville, MS 38601. For more information, contact Carr at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dale Timothy Gordon at email@example.com.