Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School had until Thursday, April 22 to decide whether or not it is interested in two of the Clarksdale Municipal School District’s properties.
The CMSD is looking to get rid of Myrtle Hall IV elementary school building on Fifth Street and the old Clarksdale High School on School Street. However, before a bidding process can take place for those properties, Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School legally has first right of refusal.
If Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School does not want the buildings, the CMSD can bid both properties.
CMSD board attorney Carlos Palmer provided an update during the Thursday, April 15 meeting and said he had reached out to Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School executive director Amanda Johnson.
Palmer said he draft letters with basically two timelines.
One timeline was for Johnson to make contact with CMSD superintendent Dr. Earl Joe Nelson to tour both facilities. That deadline was April 22.
The other timeline was for Johnson to contact Nelson to be put on the May board meeting agenda to discuss Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School’s intentions.
“She has not responded,” Palmer said.
Nelson said Johnson has not contacted him either.
Board president Delores Harris acknowledged Palmer is handling the legal aspects of everything, but she expressed her concern about how long everything has taken.
“I feel that she’s (had) ample opportunity to contact to express her desire,” Harris said. “I do recall with Myrtle Hall, with the previous superintendent, she was not interested in that building. I don’t know if it’s documented in our board minutes or not, but I know she was not interested at that time.”
Joan Morris, who was appointed board vice president during the meeting, provided a suggestion.
“I was approached by a couple people that were wondering if we would not consider keeping the old building and having it torn down and selling the brick and the wood and everything because, whoever they sold to before made a fortune off of that building,” Morris said. “I don’t know if it’s feasible, how much it would cost to tear it down and how we would handle it.”
Board member H. Clay Sandy Stillions said the old high school has been added to the national archives.
“It can be re-purposed as long as the overall structure appearance remains,” Stillions said. “I don’t believe it can be legally torn down. It’s a historical site. They can do some modifications inside.”
New board member LaFiesta Roland, who replaced Sherley Fields and was appointed by city commissioner Ed Seals, asked for clarification on everything.
Palmer provided an update for Roland on the buildings the CMSD is looking to get rid of.
Harris reiterated her concerns.
“Again, we’ve given her ample time,” Harris said. “I know that she’s also in the midst of a humongous construction on the site that she’s in.”
“Hopefully, we should know something by the next board meeting,” Palmer replied.
Stillions was still concerned the matter would drag on. He specifically said the CMSD missed an opportunity to sell the old high school.
“Two different groups that were going to restore it, the outside would remain the same and it would have been put to very good use,” Stillions said. “It would have enhanced our community, either one of those projects. I suggest that we move forward, we get specific answers or that it drops dead. We’ve extended it once. I cannot see us extending it again.”
Morris said the CMSD should be able to know Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School’s very soon.
“Why do we have to wait until the next board meeting for her to tell us her intentions?” she said.
Stillions said the Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School might have to figure out the cost and other things. By law, Stillions said the CMSD has to work with Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter School, but the deadline was extended as a courtesy and the process has to come to an end.
“We can’t keep this going,” Stillions said. “We’re holding the district at bay here on property that is further declining. It’s costing us money. We’re paying taxes on it. We’re paying for repairs that have to be made. We’re not doing anything expensive. Every time they go out and kick the wood out of the windows, we’ve got to go put it back. Every time they break-in the building and steal more stuff, it’s got to be replaced or we’ve lost it. That’s how we’ve got to handle it.”