by Brian Jones
At their April 14 meeting, the Columbus Municipal School District unanimously approved a request by the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority to use the gymnasium at the old Hunt Middle School. They also approved the establishment of a cultural and fine arts center at that campus.
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. However, the school is no longer being used as its students now attend the new Columbus Middle School near Columbus Air Force Base.
At their February 14 regular meeting, it was announced that the school would remain in the system and would be used for special education programs, testing, and to house the alternative school, which is currently operating out of the Brandon Central Services building. CLRA Director of Programs Greg Lewis said there is a huge need for another gym.
“Right now we really have only one other comparable facility, East Columbus Gym,” he said, “and that’s being renovated right now. The Charles Brown Gym is in really bad shape – it was built on an old dump, and the floor has gotten to be in really bad shape. That facility really needs to be closed. The other basketball courts we have are all outdoors, and so they don’t really see any use when it’s cold or when the weather’s bad.”
The gym will host programs for everyone from “youth to seniors”, he said.
“We’re going to have after-school programs there to help students with homework, as well as providing arts and crafts and games,” he said. “”We’re going to have an adaptive program for special needs children, including a basketball program that is solely for them. We’ll have both youth and adult basketball there, as well as exercise classes.”
Lewis didn’t have a firm date when the CLRA would move into the gym.
“There are renovations going on at the school right now, and we don’t want to move in until that’s done,” he said. “We don’t want to be bringing children through the renovations to get to the gym.”
Lewis made a brief presentation to the board at the beginning of the meeting, but the matter was not taken up until after the executive session. Once the board reconvened in open session, the request was approved unanimously with no discussion. The Hunt-related issues were listed on the ‘Such Other Matters As May Come Before the Board’ section of the agenda, which is right after the executive session. By the time the issue was taken up for a vote, the meeting had stretched through the hour-long open session and a 55-minute executive session. By that time, both Lewis and CLRA Executive Director Roger Short, who was also present for the meeting, had left. – Brian Jones]
The board also approved the establishment of a cultural center and museum at Hunt.
The center will be housed in the old library at Hunt, which is a stand-alone part of the building. The community group that would be responsible for the museum is currently working to attain 501(c)3 non-profit status; once secured, they will lease that portion of the building for a community center. The community group will determine the contents of the center.
The center was approved unanimously, again with no discussion.