The Moore-Mickens Education Center may get new life, through efforts by a nonprofit group to lease the center from Pasco County Schools.
The center, whose history is tied to the first school for black students in Pasco County, was closed in 2015.
Pasco County school officials said the buildings on campus were in disrepair and too expensive to keep open.
“It was a big blow, especially to the African-American community when the school closed,” said Jesse McClendon Sr., pastor of New Family Life in Christ.
An effort is underway by a nonprofit, operating as the Moore-Mickens Education and Vocational Center Inc., to reopen the school to house multiple programs. It is soliciting partners, such as Pasco Kids First and Feeding Pasco’s Elderly.
Board members include Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez and Keith Babb, executive director of 2nd C.H.A.N.C.E. Center4Boyz.
The campus on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in recent years offered classes for adults, teen parents and special needs children.
The school’s name honors the legacy of two Pasco educators, Rev. Junias D. Moore and Odell Kingston “O.K.” Mickens.
McClendon said the nonprofit anticipates bringing a finalized plan to the school board in June or July.
Pasco Kids First is open to the idea of relocating its programs to Moore-Mickens, including Healthy Families and the Trauma Treatment Team.
“I think we can offer a very stable couple of programs to place at the site,” said Rick Hess, president of Pasco Kids First.
Other programs being considered by the Moore-Mickens’ nonprofit would include a food bank, afterschool programs, an elderly nutrition program and voluntary prekindergarten classes.
The goal is to have the facility open in time for next year’s VPK classes to start, McClendon said.
“That would be something that complements the program we’re doing over there,” said Hess.
There are challenges for anyone taking on the building, said Ray Gadd, Pasco County’s deputy school superintendent.
“This is an old building with a lot of maintenance issues,” he said. “It also has undisturbed asbestos. As long as it’s undisturbed, it’s not an issue. We left the campus because it was a maintenance nightmare.”
However, there are about four buildings on campus that could be usable, with some work, Gadd said.
When the school district initially announced plans to close Moore-Mickens in 2014, school officials heard impassioned pleas from hundreds of people in the community who wanted to keep it open.
McClendon said the school, over the years, had become the educational home to a diverse population of students.
For many, it gave them hope and second chances through General Equivalency diplomas, and alternative educational classes.
“It surprised me,” McClendon said.
The community persuaded district officials to keep Moore-Mickens open, then.
But, officials reversed course a year later, citing the expense of repairs.
One last chance to secure funds for Moore-Mickens faded when Gov. Rick Scott in January vetoed $250,000 in the state’s 2016 budget to reopen Moore-Mickens.
The Cyesis teen parent program, FAPE 22 program for Exceptional Education students from age 18 to 22, Adult Education and the Support our Students (SOS) last-chance program were relocated to other schools.
When approached by the nonprofit, Gadd said he urged them to reach out to a range of social agencies.
An agreement with the school district likely would be a lease arrangement for $1 a year for a set number of years, Gadd said.
The district would require that the nonprofit have insurance, he added.
The group would be on their own to secure money for repairs, upkeep and program funding.
Funding is an issue, but McClendon said the lease agreement could make the nonprofit eligible for grants. One source, for example, would be state historical grants. Fundraising events also would be held, McClendon said.
The reopening of the school likely would be done in phases, he said.
Published June 8, 2016