The Sharp-Dean School of Continuing Studies bid $50,000 to buy the property from the city of Anniston and Tuesday council members unanimously approved the sale.
Rosetta Dean, founder of the school, said she needs room to expand, and the vacant school offers plenty of that.
Dean has been teaching in a 1,600-square-foot former residence at 1910 N. Noble St. since 1997. In 2005, the school’s accreditation report said the school had 25 students in its preschool through 12th grade program.
Currently, Dean said, the school has more than 200 students and needs more space.
“We’ve been working and working and working as demand increases,” Dean said. “It’ll be more space there, but it won’t be hard to fill.”
The traditional students — those attending preschool through 12th grade who are under 18 — attend on the school campus. With non-traditional students, the majority of the school’s enrollment, she uses technology to juggle classes, Dean said.
Even though Dean has refrained from formally advertising the school, demand has continued to increase. People find the school through word-of-mouth referrals, Dean said.
The Noble Street School is not the first building she’s looked at purchasing, so Dean is excited that this opportunity worked out.
“What drives us is that I know people are hungry for a high school diploma,” Dean said Thursday morning.
She said she hears stories of people turned away from jobs because of not having a diploma and even leaving town to find an employer who will hire them without a diploma. That’s sad, Dean said, because they don’t want to leave their homes and families.
So, she helps them get their diplomas and many are inspired to continue on to higher education.
“It makes me feel so good that we can be the gate,” Dean said.
She has ideas to expand further that she’s not willing to share. One clue as to where she’s headed is in her accreditations. The most recent graduation program lists an accreditation as a two-year post-secondary college, something the school is not currently doing.
“We have not really launched anything there except with the veterans,” Dean said.
She declined to get any more specific.
At this point, Dean isn’t sure when she will move into the school. She and the city of Anniston are still working on the paperwork for the sale, Dean said. City Manager Don Hoyt said attorney Ed Isom is working on the sale, but he’s unsure when it will be completed.
The Noble Street School was closed in 1973 as part of the desegregation court order in Anniston. Gadsden State Community College leased the building from 1981 to 2004. The building has been empty since November 2004 when the college moved out. Dean knows the building will require some work, but she’s not sure how much because she hasn’t been able to see it with the lights on yet.
In addition, in the years since the school was closed, the neighborhood and zoning have changed, said City Planner Toby Bennington.
“Any proposed use other than a permitted use would be allowed as a conditional use,” Bennington said. “But a planned unit development (plan) would have to be done and prepared and presented to the Planning Commission by the school.”
The plan would include elements such as the proposed use, the landscaping and any changes to the building or lot, Bennington said. It will require the building be updated to current building and fire codes, which may have changed since the building was last used.
The process will ensure that the development fits into the neighborhood well and it will also give the Anniston Historical Preservation Commission a chance to have some input, he added.
“Even though the building is not on the National Registry, it is still a valued piece of historic architecture in the city,” Bennington said.
Star staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545.