As Effingham County commissioners start looking at what projects they want to accomplish as part of their short-term work program, they were lobbied Tuesday night to move ahead on renovations at the old Central High School.
The county swapped what is known as the Sheehy property for the Central school site and has explored moving some social service agencies there. The Springfield Central High School Association asked commissioners to work on the site with the hopes of locating the Parent University there.
“We believe that facility provides enormous opportunity to promote the education and well-being of young citizens in this county,” said Franklin Goldwire. ‘We feel we can use this facility to promote the educational aspects of this county.”
Goldwire noted that the county spends $2,500 in local tax dollars annually per student, and the state spends another $5,000 per student each year. Recent estimates put the cost to the state at housing a juvenile or inmate at $90,000 a year.
“You do the math,” he said.
Goldwire projected housing Parent University at the Central School site would cost approximately $20,000-$25,000 a year. The program, he said, aims to “educate, empower and motivate parents to become involved in their children’s education.”
“It’s proven that makes a difference,” he added. “We feel this is a vital service we can provide to the county and save a lot of tax dollars, not just locally but throughout the state. We want to urge you to consider the renovation of Central and move our program forward so that we might create more productive citizens so that they become taxpayers rather than a burden on our local taxpaying citizens as well as the state.”
Parent University held two sessions last year and will hold three sessions this year, Goldwire said, because of the demand. They also would like to house a computer laboratory and language arts and math tutoring at Central.
“We have an array of programs we feel can benefit the citizens of this county,” he said. “We’d like to establish a youth development program where we can teach our young people about responsibility. We’d like to have some space to operate in. We feel like we have a solid program.”
The site also could house an African-American heritage center.
“Effingham County has come a long way,” said Willie Wright, president of the Springfield Central High School Association, “and we are a part of Effingham County, and we want to recognized and represented.”
Wright also said a potential heritage center could be a tourism draw. The school was founded in 1956 as an equalization school, offering education to African-American children.
“That facility has very significant historical notations, being an equalization school,” Goldwire said. “Some of the most prominent and productive citizens of this county attended that school.”
Now at more than 50 years old, the building qualifies for state and federal historic designations, according to Goldwire.
“We feel this would be an opportunity to create the historical heritage of the Afro-Americans,” Goldwire added.
He said the group has looked at what other cities are doing, and they would like to use the Willow Hill School in Portal as the model.
“They have an excellent heritage center,” Goldwire said.
Goldwire also pointed out that the only state high school athletic championship won by an Effingham County school was at Central High School. The 1967 team won the Georgia Interscholastic Association Class A state boys basketball title.