CLERMONT, Fla. – One Lake County advocacy group is helping to get results and preserve history after an elementary school is set to close but will be taking on a new life as an education center.
“We’re hoping for people to know Lincoln Park was here and we’re going to do great things,” said Sharon Keys, who is the executive director of Lincoln Park South Lake Alliance, which is a group working to preserve history in the Clermont and South Lake County area.
A piece of that history Keys says is at Clermont Elementary School, which was at one point called the Lincoln Park School.
“My first-grade classroom is still there as a matter of fact,” said Keys.
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She says the school was built back in 1902 with the purpose of educating Black students.
She says that’s why Lincoln Park South Lake Alliance urged the school board to save the school.
Earlier this month, Lake County Public Schools announced Clermont Elementary will shut down this summer with students transferring to a newer nearby school.
“So, knowing the school is going to be closing we had the decision as to what to do with the facility and one thing that kept coming from our high schools was a need for alternative programming,” said Lake County Superintendent Diane Kornegay.
Korenegey says the school will transform into an education center, providing workforce training, advanced learning, and alternative educational opportunities for students and adults.
The center is set to be called the Lincoln Park Education Center, paying respects to the school’s past.
Keys says that past is also part of her story, saying she attended the school before schools were integrated back in the early 1960s.
“We had a village,” said Keys. “Most of the teachers in that school knew our parents, our parents knew them. We had those we felt that really cared about us having an education.”
Keys says the center, which is set to open in August of next year, was already in the works since 2019 when the advocacy group and surrounding community first pleaded to save the school.
“We do have a plan to renovate the facility,” said Konegay, who says funding for the center will be shared between Lake County Schools, Lake Technical College, and Lake-Sumter State College, with both state colleges set to offer courses at the center.
“A challenge is taking an elementary school with the small sinks, small counters and converting that into an adult center,” Kornegay noted.
Going forward, Keys says she is excited to see how this center will help her community grow.
“We’re not stopping, we are looking for other great things,” said Keys.
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