Historic Bruce Street School to unveil conceptual designs

The Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance (AMHAA) and Martin Rickles Studio will offer a project update on the ongoing creation of a conceptual design for the repurposed Bruce Street School on June 17 from noon until 1 p.m.

This event will take place via Zoom, registration is required at arabiaalliance.org/sign-up-below/, and in person at the offices of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance (3350 Klondike Road, Stonecrest).

AMHAA officials said project leaders will share an update regarding the conceptual design on June 17 before unveiling the formal concept in September.

Project leaders have held community engagement sessions on Bruce Street School—the first Black public-school building in DeKalb County—since fall of 2021 to help determine the future of the Bruce Street School ruins.

The project, according to a news release, is a collaboration between city of Lithonia, DeKalb County, and AMHAA. AMHAA officials said funding was provided by DeKalb County District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson and AMHAA with the goal of preserving and repurposing the Bruce Street School ruins.

The engagement process has included five in-person community engagement sessions and multiple digital engagement opportunities designed to gather an understanding of the Lithonia community’s wishes and needs as they relate to this historic structure.

An aerial view of Bruce Street School shows the structures still remaining. Photos provided

The final conceptual design will feature changes designed to make the school accessible as both a historic site and a community gathering place, according to AMHAA officials. During an early community engagement session, AMHAA Executive Director Revonda Cosby said one of the themes emerging from the engagement sessions is the community’s desire for the space to be interactive.

“The community wants it to be an engaging space. Not just where we stare and remember, but where we can do something else while we’re here,” said Cosby.

AMHAA officials said several Bruce Street School alumni also participated the community engagement sessions.

The event scheduled for June 17 will offer participants a chance to hear updates on the status of the conceptual design project from Lithonia Mayor Shameka Reynolds and other members of the repurposing initiative.

AMHAA staff said they will also provide updates about a series of oral histories recorded about the Bruce Street School during the June 17 event.

According to AMHAA officials, Bruce Street School was also known as Lithonia Negro School and the Lithonia Colored School; it was built and operated by Lithonia’s Black community prior to integration.

The school’s first graduating high school class (around 1943) included three pupils; by 1968, when the Bruce Street School was closed, there were more than a dozen elementary and eight high school classrooms, a news release states.


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