Former Valena C. Jones Colored School Students Ready To Fight To Save The School

Valena C. Jones Colored School was established in Bay St. Louis in the late 1800's. The Hurricane of 1947 destroyed the school. It was rebuilt and became a hub of the black community for decades.

Rogers James, Valena C. Jones Former Principal says, "I graduated from High School here in 1956, and I came back to work here in 1965."

James began his career here as a math and science teacher. He remembers fondly the classroom where it all started. James eventually became the principal of the school.

James says, "We need it in the community. It's a symbol; It's a symbol of this community."

Most who attended Valena C. Jones share those feelings.

Clarence Harris, a former student, says, "Over the years a lot of things that we've had in our community have vanished, have went by and basically this is the only last landmark that we have to identify with."

Desegregation came in 1969 and was turned into an elementary school until 1972. The city of Bay St. Louis has used the building for the police and fire departments and public works for the last 34 years.

The city is vacating the old school building and is ready sell the property. That worries some citizens and Ward three councilman Jeffrey Read.

Jeffrey Reed says, "I would hate to see someone but it and tear it down and build something else and when I say something else, apartments, condos."

Reed went to school at Valena C. Jones, and he'd like to see the storm damaged building renovated and turned into a community center.

Reed says, "A cultural center could be put here a boys and girls club could be put here. You can put computer classes in it. We have a program called catch a falling star an after school tutoring program."

Mayor Eddie Favre says it all comes down to money.

"You're talking about millions of dollars to completely renovate it. If something can happen to where it makes it a viable project then I think we need to pursue that avenue," Favre says.

The city has already declared the old school surplus property, but those who want to save the Valena C. Jones, hope the city can find a way to save this piece of history. Councilman Reed says the city has received insurance money to make repairs on the building. He also says the city has applied for a grant to restore the gymnasium.

Those who support saving the building are circulating a petition which they will present in Tuesday night's city council meeting.