Volunteers clean up old middle school

Published 11:08 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The old Brewton Middle School was a hive of activity for the first time in months Saturday as volunteers joined to clean up the grounds.

The group is hoping to turn the old school into a community center and wanted to keep the property up while they work on plans for the facility.

“My heart will be broken if we don’t have the opportunity to turn this into a community center,” said Aline Manuel, who leads a committee that is working on the project.

Manuel helped guide a group of volunteers of all ages on Saturday as they cleaned up brush at the school.

Across the grounds, volunteers — including the committee members, Escambia County jail inmates and workers from New Beginnings Ministry — worked to mow the grass, pull weeds and even plant a new community garden at the site.

“It has been wonderful,” Manuel said. “And we have volunteers who have indicated they will try to keep it up” over the winter months.

Ownership of the facility is set to change hands from Brewton City Schools to the City of Brewton since the school system opened a new Brewton Middle School at the start of the school year.

The community center committee has been working for more than a year to try to find a way to open the old school as a facility for youth activities and community meetings.

City officials have said one of the biggest hurdles is funding. The most likely option for using the school as a community center would include leasing the facility from the city, and that payment would need to cover the cost of insurance.

A master plan would need to be submitted to address the use of the facility; how the unused portion would be secured; maintenance; source of funding; and how long the use of the facility can be expected to continue.

The city set aside $100,000 from the sale of the land on which the new middle school sits for a community center. Part of that was used last spring for a feasibility study on the building and property.