Fate Of Old Soria City Elementary School Still Up In Air

Despite Katrina and decades of storms, the Old Soria City Elementary School building is still perched on the corner of 19th Street and Thornton Avenue. But the fate of the historic school house is still up in the air.

Monday night, concerned citizens gathered at a Gulfport School Board meeting to discuss the future of the building.

The Old Soria City Elementary school is nestled in the heart of Soria City - a historic area of Gulfport. Many residents in the area have deep roots and fond memories tied to this vacated building, as one woman pointed out at Monday night's school board meeting.

"The older children attended the school when the school had only two rooms. When I first came to that community, the school had two rooms and two teachers," said resident Willie Mae Merrell.

The school closed its doors decades ago. Earlier this year, a faith-based group called Gulf Coast Community Ministries approached the school board with plans to turn the building into a facility that would cater to the spiritual, physical and educational needs of the community.

"The whole plan was for the group to put in the health clinic, then the Soria City group was going to have an educational piece. Everybody was going to work together with the library and computer room, and so on," said Glen East, Superintendent of Gulfport Schools.

But the group withdrew its request to lease the building before Monday's school board meeting, questioning to what capacity they'd be able to minister to people's spiritual needs. While East says there have never been plans to demolish the building, the future of the old school building is not yet set in stone.

"It's in limbo right now. We're trying, we definitely don't want to lose the facility," East said. "We'd like to use it in the district. We definitely thought we had a good deal to work out a community venture. It hasn't worked out, so we're going into another direction."

Dorothy McClendon, President of the Soria City Civic Association, told the board the Civic Association would like to lease the building, and turn it into a community education center. The group plans to submit a formal proposal at the school board's next meeting.