Will be used for special ed, alternative school
Hunt Middle School will remain in use by the district, the Columbus Municipal School Board announced during their February 14 regular meeting.
Hunt’s students were consolidated with those of Lee Middle School at the newly constructed Columbus Middle School. The fate of the school was uncertain; other schools that were no longer used, including Hughes Alternative School and Mitchell Elementary, have been sold.
Hunt is located on a 14-acre site and was built in 1953. For many years it was used as the African-American high school, and remains an important part of Columbus’s black community.
Phillips said the building will be used for some district operations, including an alternative school. It will also house important artifacts, he said.
“We’ve been working to plan what was going to happen with Hunt once we got the new middle school open,” said Superintendent Del Phillips. “I think we’ve always had the intention to continue to use Hunt within the community. What our plans have always been and what they continue to be is to house special education programs out there. We will also have some district testing out there, and also the alternative school. There are some advantages to the alternative school being out there because we haven’t been able to provide physical education to any of our students in the alternative school, and we’ll also have a cafeteria.
“One of the things that has been of some concern is some of the artifacts that have come out of Hunt,” Phillips said. “We’ve taken those and kept up with them at the central office so that nothing would happen to them. I’ve talked with [Board Member] Tommy Prude and with the mayor about trying to figure out a way to best preserve those items. I had thought about having specific rooms set up for that memorabilia to be kept in. That’s kind of what my intentions were all along.”
“This is an issue that galvanized the community,” Prude said. “The impact of Hunt remaining open…it impacts a great number of people and the morale in the African-American community. We have closed all of the old African-American schools, with Hunt the only one remaining. It has a sentimentality among the population and they are willing to be involved in the preservation of Hunt. We are going to work together and have volunteers to come in and work with the museum and the artifacts and to help people who come in for reunions to have access. We’re going to put our hearts and souls behind the preservation of it.”
“I want to say, too, that we’ve preserved all the artifacts from Lee High as well,” Phillips interjected. “We’ll be doing something similar there.”
“Whatever we do, we need to do it in a way to preserve the history of our community,” said Bruce Hanson. “I would err on the side of cautiousness to say that simply volunteers are not enough. We need to enter into some kind of understanding, or at least have some understanding, to make sure this stuff is preserved forever. The buildings need to be preserved for the community and not become an eyesore.
“We also need to take control of our artifacts so we don’t have these situations where somebody borrows something for their class reunion and then it doesn’t come back,” he added. “The school system ends up with a copy. We need to take every step possible to make sure this is done correctly.”
“The district is going to supervise Hunt,” Prude said. “We have volunteers that work in concert with the district, but the district will have the ultimate responsibility to maintain that. It will not become junky.”
“I’m a great believer in preservation,” said Glenn Lautzenhiser. “This is the history of our community, and preserving this is very important.”
“Once you go up the stairs in Hunt, there’s a large room there, probably about the size of three classrooms,” Phillips said. “We were thinking about setting that room up for an artifact room, if that’s agreeable.”
“This appears to be a win-win situation,” said Board President Alma Turner. “I want the community to know that this board is passionate about preservation and we will do anything we can to make sure the history is preserved at that building.”
In other business, the board discussed theft of equipment during the move to the new middle school.
Board member Currie Fisher questioned the loss of fixed assets during the consent agenda section of the meeting; she asked that the matter be removed from the consent items and discussed separately.
Four laptops and a copier were reported stolen, all from Hunt Intermediate School.
“I feel that this really needs to be reviewed,” Fisher said.
“Do think there is some impropriety or something irregular occurred?” Prude asked.
“Anytime something is listed as stolen there is an impropriety,” Fisher said. “I think we need to understand how these technological items could have been taken from the school district. I would like to know what has been done to identify how those items were taken. They’re pretty large items.”
“Per state law, when any item is stolen from a public entity there has to be a police report filed,” Phillips said. “Those items that you’re asking about came up missing during the move to the middle school. For legal reasons I can’t tell you what happened. That would be a personnel issue.”
“I understand the process,” Fisher said. “When you look at something like a copier and several laptops, there’s a question in my mind how much oversight is given. I would prefer that this not become a pattern.”
“I don’t think you see a lot of things stolen,” Phillips said. “We had an exorbitant amount of items being moved between buildings at that particular time. There were a lot of hands moving those items, and those particular things came up missing.”0