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A grant of $ 280,000 was awarded to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management Division, for the modernization of the Howard Academy Library on 2nd Street. According to Emergency Management Director Paula Carroll, the upgrades will allow the building to serve as a hurricane shelter for up to 300 evacuees. When not in use as a shelter, it will be available for use as a community center. The project is a collaboration between the First Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Association (the Association), the Jefferson County School Board and the Emergency Management Office.
Pedro McKelvin, pastor of the Welaunee Missionary Baptist Church in Lamont, leads the disaster relief efforts for the Association and has been instrumental in bringing the different groups together.
“More than a year ago, we asked the School Board to rent [the Howard Academy campus] for us, ”McKelvin says. “We want to do something for the community. I was introduced to Ms. Carroll and we were able to get the grant.
Carroll explained that the funds come from the Florida Emergency Management Division. They will be used to upgrade and / or replace the windows and doors of the library building to meet the wind impact standards required for emergency hurricane shelters.
Plans for the use of the site as a community center are being developed by the Association.
Jefferson County School District Superintendent Eydie Tricquet said the school board was leasing the historic Howard Academy property on 2nd Street for $ 1 a year to the Association, which has long-term plans for revive the entire site as an educational and resource center. The refurbishment of the hurricane shelter library supports these plans.
“This program helps build trust in the community,” said Dr. Alisha Bradley-Nelson, president of the Association’s Women’s Auxiliary. “Restoring this facility shows that people care, and it’s better when we do it together.
Bradley-Nelson says the library building is an important starting point as it contains historical records of Howard Academy alumni and educators.
“There’s a reason it stays intact and usable,” says Bradley-Nelson. “The project will not only maintain the physical facility, but also the legacy and commitment of the leaders and foundations of this community.
The Association envisions the campus becoming a one-stop-shop to meet the multigenerational needs of the community. They strive to partner with organizations that already have expertise in education and resource provision in areas such as computer literacy, financial literacy, job skills, music, and the arts.
Sheriff Mac McNeill expressed his enthusiasm for the location and its potential to provide a safe place where children are after school.
A historic site marker recognizes the significance of the Howard Academy campus on 2nd Street. He notes that construction of the campus began in 1957. In phases until the fall of 1970, the school served elementary, secondary and secondary students from the black community. The marker says that “… The creation of this school has resulted in the closure of many two- and three-room schools in rural areas. In addition, the children had better and safer accommodation, including a spacious library, workspaces for specialized lessons, such as home economics and choral music, facilities that were not available at the school. Chestnut Street school. The new school also had a gymnasium and a soccer field. When the school district implemented desegregation in the 1970-71 school year, the campus became the only college in the district, Howard Middle School. However, the facility has been closed since 2004 when the new public school on David Road was built, currently Jefferson County K-12, A Somerset Charter School.
The $ 280,000 grant will open a new chapter in the history of Howard Academy. Bradley-Nelson says the project could provide a kind of “reset” for the community and support it for generations to come.
Carroll says the next step is to secure bids for the work, and a clean-up day is scheduled to prepare the library building for renovations.