Urgent history lesson

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Three quarters of a century after they opened, several former Richmond County schoolhouses sit worn down and vacant, with historical preservationists hoping to save them from demolition.

The old John S. Davidson School, the A.C. Griggs School, the Martha Lester School and the old Sue Reynolds School, all built in 1934, must be sold to plug a $1.5 million hole in this year's school budget.

"We just don't want anyone to come into town and think this is a prime piece of property and tear it down," said Erick Montgomery, of Historic Augusta, which is offering its expertise in preservation to any interested buyers.

The schools could be put up for bid this month, said Jack Padgett, the chairman of the school board's building committee. Also up for sale are the old Hornsby Elementary, the Floyd Graham School and the Regency Exchange 8 cinema.

While the school board is hoping to sell these sites, it is also looking for ways to best use its existing properties and to bring more racial equality to school facilities. That is the same situation the board was facing nearly 80 years ago.

The passage of a million-dollar school construction package heralded a day when money flowed easily for Richmond County education.

"The cost of these and other projects that the Board wanted would have unnerved citizens of another era," Augusta historian Ed Cashin wrote in The Quest: A History of Public Education in Richmond County, Georgia. "However this was the high-flying twenties when the fantastic was entirely possible. So, the once-timid Board decided to go for broke."

The bond package was passed after a grand jury report highlighted the need to replace and repair shabby school buildings and improve conditions for all children.

A grand jury was highly critical of the segregated school system for allowing its facilities to fall into disrepair, especially schools for black children. The report also recommended consolidating old one-room schoolhouses and replacing others.

Though the bond issue passed in 1929, construction of the schools didn't happen until a few years later during the Great Depression.

When the bond package was complete, Richmond County had the following new schools: Joseph Lamar; the Fourth Ward School (later Lawton B. Evans); James R. Fleming; the original Gracewood School; Perrin School; Emma Stoughton School (later A.C. Griggs); Rocks School (later the old Sue Reynolds); the old John S. Davidson; Martha Lester; Silas X. Floyd; and C.T. Walker.

"The litany of schools was so impressive that one might forget what launched the drive for the bond issue in the first place, the need for new schools for black children," Dr. Cashin wrote.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

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BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 12/03/08 - 08:11 am
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Most of the buildings

Most of the buildings discussed have many structural problems. I know the Davidson building needs a new roof at the tune of $200,000 or more. The building is deteroiating rapidly and I believe the board is causing " demolition by neglect" The board needs to sell them for a $1 and allow someone to renovate them before it is too late. Trying to plug holes in the budget should not be done attempting to sell old buildings. By the way. did anyone think the buildings belong to the taxpayers of Augusta. don't you think we should have a say. I know my representative is not doing the job.

disssman
6
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disssman 12/03/08 - 09:41 am
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Maybe when they sell these

Maybe when they sell these buildings they could afford to purchase some math books for the 9th grade at A.R.Johnson for the kids to study. Its true, the kids are in a class without books, can you believe it. Apparently the RCBOE either dosen't know or dosen't care. What they, the school, did was purchase about 1/3 of a new math course, they forgot to buy the software, computres and instructions to run it. What a picture of professionalism on the part of our exalted superintendent, and kids without a text book at a magnet school no less. No wonder this state is in last place in the coubtry in education!!!

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 12/03/08 - 09:44 am
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notice how the so called

notice how the so called "board members" did not mention anything about reducing spending in order to close the 1.5 million dollar deficit. the philosophy is to "sell something, anything" to raise more money to spend it "FOR THE CHILDREN" (to quote the schreeching of venus cain) on various worthless and uttrerly useless "programs" or football stadiums or b-ball gyms for the worse schools in the county but in their "infinite wisdom" do not think it is important enuff to make sure there are enuff textbooks for all and sufficient school supplies so that the teachers themselves do not have to buy them with their own money. 2 suggestions would be to expel all undesirable, disruptive and troublemaking students which will allow some schools to be closed or suspend all athletic programs of high schools that have graduation rates less than 60% i am sure that would close the 1.5 million dollar deficit with no problem.

Fed UP with MCG
0
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Fed UP with MCG 12/03/08 - 10:02 am
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I would love to purchase some

I would love to purchase some of these buildings and turn them into my personal home. However, what the commissioners fail to remember is that half to all of the buildings are filled with esbestes. Unless, the commissioners want to kick into the city funds to help with the clean up then they are all subject to being torn down rather than cleaning them up! That is the reality that Augusta and the Historical Society need to get together on.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 12/03/08 - 10:36 am
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dissman it's not only at

dissman it's not only at Johnson it's at Laney as well. I will say however Johnson has more material on hand and faculty to keep them at their success rate.

disssman
6
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disssman 12/03/08 - 11:34 am
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JFP833, how wrong you are,

JFP833, how wrong you are, the teacher actually is the only interface. The problem is when the kids come home to do home work and they are having problems, there is no reference to help them. Additionally, when they do their home work, it is not graded and returned so they never know when they are wrong or why. Trully a real example of Principles and Teachers being paid to occupy a space. What is needed is an office, not under the control of the BOE where complaints can be lodged and acted upon. I have watched the COMCAST airing of the board procedings and it is laughable and almost a social gathering. I have never heard any representative ash the superintendent a question about if all students have the materials needed to perform in class.

palomino9
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palomino9 12/03/08 - 01:45 pm
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way to go trash, just sell a

way to go trash, just sell a part of history, and destroy it, just like Augusta has done for decades, and eliminated valuable historical sites.

jackfruitpaper833
41
Points
jackfruitpaper833 12/03/08 - 02:40 pm
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I don't think you are

I don't think you are understanding what I'm saying: Like you said Johnson doesn't have enough math books the same is at Laney But I think JOHNSON has more stuff on hand than LANEY does to maintain it's national status. In other words they both lack items needed to be at full potential.

disssman
6
Points
disssman 12/03/08 - 04:55 pm
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No JFP833 you don't

No JFP833 you don't understand, no matter how much they have in the library, it dosen't do a kid a bit of good if it dosen't match what they are studying. And the problem is they don't have text books period. The student workbook is very specific in the opening chapter and specifies the workbook is to be used with a computer program for the students. I believe this has been a problem with RCBOE for years. Just how hard is it to ask the superintendent, the question "Do all students in the system have ALL their text books"? And a text book is where things are explained and samples given, a companion workbook is not a text book!!

disssman
6
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disssman 12/03/08 - 05:02 pm
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I forgot a point. When you

I forgot a point. When you and I went to school. We were given homework and it aws graded and returned so we knew what we needed to study. Well thats not how they do it at AR Johnson. Consequently, the kids haven't a clue if what they are answering is correct, and neither do I, because I try to help them as much as possible right after school. The serious problem is why did we as taxpayers spend a huge amount of money for 1/3 of a program, especially when RCBOE knew that was what they were never going to purchase a full program of instruction. But not to worry I am sure this will reflect on the supers evaluation as a failure, or will it? I mean after all you can't expect him to do every thing for the meager salary we pay him can he?

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