By Tia Lynn Ivey
As the Morgan County School System puts the final touches on the new middle school, the last edition to a $56 million consolidated school campus, the fate of the old middle school building on Pearl Street seemed uncertain. But a new partnership with the City of Madison’s Downtown Development Authority and the school system aims to ensure the historic middle school will live on.
The old middle school, which once served as the Pearl-Burney Street School, an all African-American school before integration was implemented in Morgan County in 1970. The building holds special significance to the historic Canaan neighborhood in Madison, with many locals worried the relocation of the middle school would leave the building vacant and deteriorating.
But the school system and the City of Madison is working to ensure the building is repurposed in a way that honors the educational legacy of the site.
“There is an attachment in the community for this building,” said City Councilman Ed Latham. “I am an optimist when it comes to this…We have had so much interest…we just have to figure out what is salvageable and what can go there. In my heart and in my brain, I think we will have something there in the next two years.”
“The best part is the property will continue to be utilized, rolling on with the legacy of that property. It’s a win for the entire neighborhood,” added City Manager David Nunn.
According to city leaders, the Madison-Morgan Boys & Girls Club will be offered part of the old middle school building, which will retain the “Pearl-Burney” name. The Georgia Military College will also be a possible tenant for one the old middle school buildings.
At Friday’s special-called Madison Mayor and City Council meeting, the council voted to approve an Intergovernmental Agreement between the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the Morgan County Board of Education to assist with the redevelopment of the old middle school building.
According to Director of City Planning Monica Callahan, the DDA agrees to complete feasibility study for the economic development of the property and determine economic viability. The Intergovernmental Agreement allows the DDA five years to move forward with a potential tenancy by the Georgia Military College to ensure the old middle school is not boarded up or fenced off, left vacant in the meantime.
Latham noted that the repurposing of the old middle school is essential for the overall wellbeing of the community and city as a whole.
“For example, the success of the West Washington Gateway project would be impeded if we let that building just sit there and go away,” explained Latham. “It is in our best interest that we have something to do with it, to make sure it’s an attractive situation and remains true to its education purpose…If we don’t do right by the school and the board and right by this building, then the whole area is being affected.”
Councilwoman Carrie Peters-Reid was grateful for the DDA’s role in ensuring the old middle school will have a new purpose that will benefit the community.
“This is in my district,” said Reid. “To actually go ahead and do something with this space is amazing. We are trying to lift up that community…I would like to say thank you on behalf of District 1.”
Madison Mayor Fred Perriman praised city leaders and the DDA for their efforts to ensure the legacy of the old middle school and former Pearl-Burney Street School lives on into the future.
“As a graduate from there, it’s an honor to see the name continue,” said Perriman. “It’s a win-win for the school system, a win-win for the Canaan community and a win-win for all of Madison. Thank you for the DDA for working so hard to make this a reality, said Perriman.