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Lafayette Supervisors OK Grant Application for Old Head Start Building

By Alyssa Schnugg

News editor


The Gordon Community and Cultural Center, right, and the old Head Start building to the left. The grant, if approved by the MDAH, will help restore the Old Head Start building. Image via Google Maps 2022

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.

The Gordon Community Board applied for the grant in 2020 but was denied because they asked for more than $1 million. The MDHA does not provide grants for more than $1 million.

“This year, we are applying again for $450,000,” said Janice Carr, who sits on the Gordon Community and Cultural Center Board of Directors.

The $450K would be used to get rid of any asbestos in the building, and replace the roof windows and exterior doors, Carr said.

The former school buildings were designated a National Historical Site on June 19, 2019, and placed in the National Register of Historic Sites the following year.

The Board of Supervisors, in agreeing to allow the application for the grant, also voted to provide the necessary 20% match, which would be $90,000.

Carr said she should know around December if they are approved for the grant.

Carr also asked if they were denied the grant if the supervisors would still give the $90,000 to be used for asbestos abatement; however, she was told she would need to come back to the Board with the request after the MDHA notified her if the grant application was denied.

The journey

The original 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 the 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 transferred 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.

In 2014, the doors were finally reopened 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 jfclegal@bellsouth.net.

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