CLERMONT, Fla. – Community members came together with administrators, teachers, and former students on Tuesday to mark the closing of Clermont Middle School.
The school is scheduled to be demolished later this year and replaced with a new school that will serve students from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
“I can say with great confidence, Clermont Middle School was a true gem for our community through all these years,” Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks said.
The campus has served as an educational institution since 1955 when it opened as Clermont High School with 10 classrooms.
The school was initially reserved for white students until racial integration was completed in the 1969-70 school year.
Belinda Richardson graduated in 1976 and said it was important for her to walk through the halls of the school one last time.
“It’s bittersweet. There’s so many memories flooding back,” Richardson said. “Only thing we have is a memory, nothing tangible anymore, but we’re moving on to bigger and better things.”
The new school that will be built on the property is Aurelia M. Cole Academy, which is named for the esteemed educator who was a dean at Clermont High School and assistant principal at Clermont Middle School. She later made history as the first African American high school principal in Lake County after integration.
Cole’s daughter attended Tuesday’s ceremony. She said she’s grateful for the impact her mother had on students over the years and will look towards the new school as a beacon of pride for her family.
“She’s definitely a pioneer in Lake County and this community,” Danielle Green said. “She touched so many different people and we know that her legacy will continue to live on.”
Aurelia M. Cole Academy is scheduled to open to students in 2023.
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