The Ridgeland NAACP branch is calling a recent school board decision to suspend the renovation of a learning center racist. The group is protesting this decision and others, calling for the board to reconsider.
The property on Bees Creek Road used to be the Jasper High School and Jasper Elementary School, which were segregated. The former Jasper County School Board voted to transform the historical buildings into a learning center to house administrative staff and add some classrooms, named after Clementa Pinckney.
“I can tell you that my class was 7-3, seventh grade, third section,” NAACP Branch President Richie Reed says, “so that will give you an idea of what I felt and what I continue to feel about that building being restored.”
Reed says it’s important that the building be restored for historical reason, especially bearing the name of Clementa Pinckney, the late reverend and senator from Jasper County who was killed in the Mother Emanuel church shooting last summer.
“So much of African American history has been destroyed,” Reed says.
However, the school board suspended the project in October. Reed’s group has been holding meetings, calling the decision offensive, demanding a reconsideration.
“I think, and I have reason to believe, that it was put on hold for reasons that appear to be racist, discriminatory,” she says.
However, board members NEWS 3 spoke with say the reasons behind the decision are not racist. Board member Randy Horton says the halt happened because the construction contract is tied-up in litigation filed by Jasper County citizens. Horton further says there was never a plan to explain exactly how many classrooms the facility would add.
Board member Kevin Karg says he felt the project should be halted until the board decides on the future of Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence (ACE). Karg believes the buildings set to be demolished on the Bees Creek Road property could be used, should ACE buildings be sold.
Still, Reed’s NAACP branch plans to pack-out the 6:30 p.m. Thursday board meeting. On the agenda is discussion on ACE, but Reed plans to bring up the learning center again under new business.