Kanawha BOE approves deal to sell former Garnet High School to alumni group

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A building that housed a former Black high school in downtown Charleston is being sold to the school’s alumni association.

The Kanawha County Board of Education approved the sell of the former Garnet High School to the Garnet Alumni Association at the board’s Thursday evening for the nominal amount of $10 pending the organization’s approval as a non-profit organization.

The school system has used the building for adult education classes for years as the Garnet Career Center but decided earlier this year to move the programs to Ben Franklin and Carver career and technical centers.

Garnet Alumni Association Chairman Don Epps said they want the spirit of the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the spirit of the school to live on.

“We wanted to keep the namesake of the school,” Epps told MetroNews Thursday. “We wanted to keep the tradition of Blackness, not only on ‘The Block’ and in Charleston but also for people who were bused in like I was from St. Albans.”

The group’s proposal says it wants to create a multi-cultural gathering venue.

MORE Read group proposal here

Kanawha County Board of Education member Ryan White said he’s impressed with the alumni group’s plans for the building including providing community activities for kids in the area.

“I’m very excited about the use of this building to help with our at-risk use. This is something that our county needs in my opinion,” White said.

Longtime board member Jim Crawford said he was also in favor of the move but wanted to make sure the school system had first right of refusal if the alumni group changes it plans or decides to put the property up for sale.

“I don’t want it to got a charter school or anything like that,” Crawford said. “Before I’d let it go to a charter school I’d prefer Kanawha County Schools open a public charter school.”

The deal is eventually expected to include language that would move the property back under the school system’s control in five years if the alumni group doesn’t follow through with its plans.

Epps, who graduated from Garnet in 1955, a year before it closed because of integration. said they hope to help the community and spur economic development.

“We would hope that people would want to come in and utilize that position in the city of Charleston. You very seldom don’t get spaces like that which have parking attached to it,” Epps said.

He said they are hoping to get tenants, other non-profits, for the building.

“If somebody would want to come in and negotiate to rent a whole floor or the whole building,” Epps said.

The building includes a garage that’s been used to teach mechanics and a gymnasium.

Garnet is located at 422 Dickinson St. in downtown Charleston.

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