The fight to save Morgan School in Charlotte’s Historic Cherry community

The school was built in 1925 for Black students
Cherry neighborhood fights to preserve historic school
Cherry neighborhood fights to preserve historic school(WBTV)
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 8:19 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Neighbors in one of Charlotte’s oldest communities are ready to confront Charlotte Mecklenburg School District school board members at its Tuesday night meeting.

People in the Cherry Neighborhood are concerned board members will sell a school that they have been requesting to own for more than 30 years. The Cherry Community Organization wants to purchase The Morgan School. The school was built in 1925 for Black students.

“We’re saying it’s our turn now,” Native Cherry Resident Dr. Sylvia Bittle Patton said. “And we are capable of designing programs for the school that is befitting of our community without someone saying to us here’s what should go in here.”

CMS Board members will vote whether or not to sell its surplus properties.

The Morgan School is on that list. The Cherry Community Organization doesn’t want a new owner to take over. The concern is they will destroy the character of the building. It has been designated as a local historic landmark.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” Bittle-Patton said. “We don’t get to unring that bell - once we go in and any changes are made that are inconsistent with the Historical character - we lose that opportunity.”

CMS Board member Thelma Byers-Bailey has been contacted by several people asking her to preserve The Morgan School. She believes her colleagues have a unique assignment.

“For me - this is an opportunity for CMS to get on the right side of history,” CMS Board Member Thelma Byers-Bailey said. “Rather than being a part of having something that hurts the community. We have an opportunity to restore this community.”

Berlina Tolbert is also fighting for the Morgan School. She grew up in the Cherry Neighborhood. She went off to Hollywood to star in the sitcom The Jeffersons. She played Jenny. She is back fighting for the history of her neighborhood and school.

“Your heritage is important for your children,” Native Cherry Resident Berlinda Tolbert said. “If your children don’t know - understand what it was you went through and how you got to wherever it is that you are currently - they don’t have a value on it.”

The neighbors believe since Preservation North Carolina has decided to work to restore The Morgan School - there should be no need to put the school on the market.

“The school should remain in the neighborhood for the residents of the Cherry Community,” Cherry Community Organization VP Barbara Rainey said. “Those it was built for and for us to handle what needs to go on in the school.”

The organization has big plans for the school that will help the community.

“It will include health and wellness,” Bittle-Patton said. “It will include academic enrichment, afterschool enrichment. It will also include some activities for seniors.”

CMS Board Member Carol Sawyer represents the area. She says she supports selling the district’s surplus properties. She says that will not prevent the Cherry Community Organization from buying the school. She also says the district can put language in the agreement that can tell the owner what they are allowed and not allowed to do with the building. Sawyer wants the school restored.

The Cherry Community Organization is doing all its homework to be prepared. The building has been empty since 2017. The organization knows work will need to be done.

“We have some excellent funders that are lining up saying get the school,” Bittle-Patton said. “And we’ll come through for you.”

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