Jacksonville is unusual in having placed a very high value on public education for a long time. This is part of our identity. Our historically black neighborhood, Eastwood, cared enough a hundred years ago to build a Rosenwald school between two churches on Vann Street. When this wooden structure burned, the community built an even nicer school on a hill on what is now Gardner Drive. With the help of the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, this gorgeous school was solidly built with hand-hewn rock, a sturdy foundation and enormous steel windows. Yet we, who have been in desperate need of a middle school for years, can’t seem to find the funds to renovate and expand it.
The Kitty Stone school sits on the original and historic site of Jacksonville State University. It has a mixture of buildings from different eras. Some, like the impressive Forney Hall, deserve to be maintained and given a new purpose. Others, like the tired pods, should be demolished and replaced with better construction. Jacksonville has already invested in a new cafeteria, new gym and heating and cooling equipment. The Kitty Stone campus contains valuable infrastructure and even more valuable memories.
I hope Jacksonville will emerge from its new building frenzy with a little money left to maintain the investments we’ve already made. Our heritage is close to the heart of town and our future should be too.
Susan Di Biase