Petition started to save old Central Middle School gym, built in 1927

CENTRAL, LA (WAFB) - It is possible one of the oldest places in the City of Central could be demolished this fall. An old gymnasium, where the old Central Middle School was on Sullivan Road, was built in 1927. The school board in Central has plans to have it demolished. But a group there has a petition making the rounds to save the building.

Right now, the building looks in need of new siding and paint, after a contractor removed asbestos from the old gym.

When Central split from the East Baton Rouge School System, the gym was condemned as unsafe.

A picture from 1948, of how some remember the old building, was send to Dave Freneaux. He is leading the charge with the group Central Cultural Foundation.

"A guy saw the picture and he said I graduated 2 1/2 hours after that photo was taken. People remember things that have happened in this gym," Freneaux said.

Two years ago, he says, the group expressed interest in restoring the gym. They would like it to be used as a museum/community center/center for visual and performing arts. Freneaux says they were in the process of fundraising and talking with contractors to come to the board with estimates and a plan. He says in May, the board told them to stop because they were unsure about what they wanted to do with the property.

Last week, he says, the board gave them a final deadline.

"They gave us four weeks to restart the program, raise the $150-200,000 in pledges and have construction estimates done. It's not a reasonable project for four weeks," Freneaux said. "It certainly is within the school board's right to tear this down. I hope they value the history of our community and the piece of history this is."

Superintendent Michael Faulk says when the group presents their plans, the board may reconsider wanting to demolish.

Faulk declined to speak on camera, only by phone.

He says when demolition was discussed, only two or three people spoke in favor of saving the building.

Freneaux says they have collected around 400 signatures on petitions, and are hoping to present 1,000 to the school board.

The superintendent says if they board does allow the cultural foundation to go ahead, the board doesn't want to maintain the building - should the foundation cease to exist.

Faulk says if they don't demolish now, using the contractor already at the school and the group doesn't come up with the money to restore the building, they will be looking for a new contractor to get rid of the old gym. Faulk says the plan is put 20 parking spaces where the building is, once DOTD widens a nearby road and takes the current parking area.

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