Renos to begin soon on long-shuttered segregated school for African-Nova Scotians

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Renos to begin soon on long-shuttered segregated school for African-Nova Scotians

A Halifax-area woman helping to revitalize a landmark building that once housed a segregated school for black students says she has fond memories of going to class at the former Lake Loon School.

"It was very encouraging in the sense that you knew everybody, they were all your neighbours and your friends … so you never felt any kind of pressure, any stress, or having to deal with anything like racism or anything," Sherry Bernard recalled Thursday as she stood outside the boarded-up building.

"The most we had to deal with was who was teacher's pet."

Bernard, who attended Lake Loon School from grades P-6, said she faced more difficulties after transitioning to an integrated junior high school outside the community of Lake Loon-Cherry Brook. 

Historical significance in the community

The one-storey Lake Loon building was a segregated school until 1964. It then turned into the Lake Look Community Centre until its closure in 1990.

"This building holds a lot of historical significance in this community," said Bernard. "It was built by and the land was donated by people from the community who had an interest in us achieving our education.

"It's probably one of the last standing little black schoolhouses in HRM."

$600K in repairs expected

The Halifax Regional Municipality sold the building back to the community last year for $1. Council has agreed to grant $170,000 toward extensive repairs for the derelict building.

The estimated cost to restore the building is about $600,000. It's hoped work will get underway within a month with the building reopening in a year.

Brenton Sparks, president of the Lake Loon Cherry Brook Development Association, said the building is structurally sound.

Future plans for the centre

The association is also banking on receiving money from the federal and provincial governments for the renovation.

"We're hoping to bring that cost down by having a lot of the community members chip in and do some of the work that doesn't require the professionals," Sparks said.

"Things like gutting it out or doing some landscaping, cutting down some trees — anything to cut the costs down, but also to get the community involved in and sort of reunite in that sort of way."

In addition to going back to its glory days as a community hall, plans include housing a doctor's office, daycare and a space for seniors.

"We'll be doing more of an assessment within the community to see exactly what is needed so we can put the priority things in there first," Sparks said.