Demolition day nears for McDowell Elementary as citizens oppose

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The demolition of Columbia’s McDowell Elementary School will take place in the coming days, according to Maury County Public Schools leadership.

The information was shared by school district Superintendent of Facilities Eric Perryman during the board’s monthly meeting this week.

He said the building is in the process of being prepared for demolition, including an asbestos abatement currently underway inside the building. It is one of the last measures that needs to be taken before the building can be safely demolished.

‘A lost treasure’:Teachers, parents reflect on McDowell Elementary’s legacy in Columbia

“We are actively taking that building down,” Perryman told members of the school board.

With a contract approved for the demolition of the building, Perryman said the building’s deconstruction could begin in as little as a week.

“We have disconnected every utility from it,” Perryman said. “We are already in the building doing the demolition.”

DEMOLITION FUNDS: Maury school board approves funds for McDowell school to be demolished

Community member requests delay

As the board continues to move forward with the plan to demolish the building, members of the community continue to step forward and ask for the board to put a hold on the building’s demolition in an effort to preserve the historic structure.

Columbia local Trevor Pennington respectfully requested the board to postpone the coming demolition and allow time for a group of interested parties to develop a proposal to purchase the aging school building located on the downtown property.

He said that he is a part of a group of individuals interested in pursuing a “planned community focused development” at the school.

“I was shocked to hear of the school’s demolition,” Pennington told the board.

PORCH TALK:What do you think should happen to McDowell Elementary School?

School board declines postponement

McDowell Elemtnary School stands empty along West 7th Street in Columbia, Tenn., on April 6, 2022.

McDowell Elemtnary School stands empty along West 7th Street in Columbia, Tenn., on April 6, 2022.

Following Pennington’s request, school board chair Michael Fulbright proposed that the board suspend the contract for demolition for two weeks, providing a window of time for an interested party to build a proposal to purchase the building.

“I wanted to make sure we had looked at every conceivable option,” Fulbright told The Daily Herald following the meeting.

Fulbright’s proposal failed in a vote by the board.

“I like old buildings,” said Chad Howell, who represents District 9 on the board. “At some point, you have to realize that some things are just not worth salvaging. It can’t house a school. It is just too small. I don’t see us being able to put the brakes on someone sweeping in and purchasing the building for $2 million.”

‘A bright star’: Columbia says farewell to 138-year-old McDowell Elementary School

‘How to say goodbye’: McDowell student who led integration in Maury County returns to closing campus

McDowell a piece of Tennessee history

More than 120-years old as an institution, McDowell served as the center of several major turning points in local history, especially in transforming the second half of the 20th century in the U.S.

Located along West 7th Street in the heart of Columbia, Jesse Tomlinson set a milestone by becoming the first female principal of a school in Columbia with more than one teacher in the 1920s.

McDowell Elemtnary School stands empty along West 7th Street in Columbia, Tenn., on April 6, 2022.

McDowell Elemtnary School stands empty along West 7th Street in Columbia, Tenn., on April 6, 2022.

Rose Ogilvie-McClain, now the interim principal at Columbia Central High School, led the way for integration at the local public school system when she became the first Black student to attend in 1964.

McDowell again led the way as it hired its first Black teacher the following year.

It served as a springboard for greater community involvement between the school district and parents when it bec
ame the first campus to organize a parent-teacher association.

Among those who have spent their early years at McDowell, include NFL player Shaq Mason, who became a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, and Chaz Molder, the youngest mayor in the city’s history, who is currently in office, attended the school followed by his own children.

McDowell formally closed at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Its students and staff were reassigned to surrounding campuses, including Highland Park and Riverside elementary schools.

Reach Mike Christen at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MikeChristenCDH and on Instagram at @michaelmarco. Please consider supporting his work and that of other Daily Herald journalists by subscribing to the publication.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Herald: MCPS planning to demolish Columbia’s McDowell Elementary

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