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Millions in Funding to Preserve Jefferson School

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The Jefferson School name has been associated with African American education in the city of Charlottesville since the 1860's. The Jefferson School name has been associated with African American education in the city of Charlottesville since the 1860's.

A school with roots deep in Charlottesville history is getting some new funds. However, there are some questions as to whether cash will be enough to preserve the aging Jefferson School.

At a ceremony on Tuesday, people from the school's past and present were on hand to show that the millions of dollars it will take to fix the Jefferson School will be worth it. Lelia Edoe Brown graduated from the Jefferson School in 1951 and said, "I am so proud that Jefferson is going to become a place of honor, which it deserves to be."

The Jefferson School name has been associated with African American education in the city of Charlottesville since the 1860's.  It began at the Freedmen's Bureau School, and then Jefferson High School, which opened in 1926. 

President of the Jefferson High School Reunion Committee Jesse A. Williams said, "There's a lot of history. A lot of good times had in this school." Jefferson High School became Charlottesville's first high school for African American's, and later became an elementary school in 1951.  After Virginia schools desegregated, the Jefferson School began offering a number of education programs in 1965.

It's the history of the school that people hope is restored, and the project will cost $17 million. If the request makes it through congress, $850,000 could potentially come from the federal government. The city of Charlottesville has invested $6 million into the project, which is going hand-in-hand with renovations on the Carter Recreation Center.

Vice Mayor of Charlottesville Holly Edwards said, "I really believe that this will be a true economic development investment in a way that we have not been able to highlight in the African American community before."

President of the Jefferson School Partnership Martin Burks said, "If you can revitalize this, and make it a part of the city where folks can come, it's a wonderful thing."

The plan is to make part of the building an African American heritage center. Burks said, "Jefferson School is the last true African American feature in the city."

Edwards said, "We can't undo the past, but we most certainly can move toward the future in a way that's going to be meaningful." Demolition on the building is supposed to start in November, and, after more than a decade of being shut down, the Jefferson School is scheduled to open its doors once again in the spring of 2012.

Reported by Dannika Lewis
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