The Chapel Hill Town Council met on Wednesday to consider a proposal to redevelop the Lincoln Center, an administrative campus under the jurisdiction of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
The campus was known as Lincoln High School in 1950 when it became an all-black educational institution, but national desegregation efforts led to its repurposing in 1966.
James Barrett, the chair of the Chapel Hill Board of Education, noted the importance of the campus and the alternative education that it currently provides to struggling students.
“The historically black high school was located there,” explained Barrett. “We [now] have Phoenix Academy, which serves 50 students today — a great educational opportunity as an alternative high school.”
The proposal aims to expand the campus by erecting a preschool center, classrooms for technical education and museum space for artifacts from Lincoln High School.
“We will have a new chamber for our board meetings, and it will be right in the middle of historic museum space for African-American history, specifically in Chapel Hill,” forecasted Barrett.
Todd LoFrese, the assistant superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, claimed that a dedicated facility for preschool in the Lincoln Center would address overcrowding in the district.
“When […] we reach full capacity at one of our elementary schools, we often turn to our preschool and move a preschool classroom from one school location to another,” explained LoFrese. “Oftentimes, they’re in substandard spaces such as modular classrooms, so what we’re talking about is a new facility dedicated solely for [preschool].”
Maria Palmer, a council member who founded a local Spanish immersion preschool in 1996, objected to parts of the proposal, citing her belief that a centralized preschool would foster racial division.
“Is it advisable to group young children in one location,” asked Palmer. “To me, this is, in fact, resegregation.”
Council members will reconvene on February 27 for further deliberation on the proposal, which includes a rezoning initiative for the projected 12-acre footprint of the redeveloped campus.