The Butler-Baker School, where “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker attended school, could soon be converted into housing for senior citizens.
But the only two proposals — one for traditional senior housing and the other for an assisted-living center — offer money far short of the amount the Putnam County school board hoped for.
Superintendent Jim Willis said the board will get an appraisal Dec. 14 and may decide then what to do with the school. The board could solicit additional proposals because the school system spent about $700,000 in repairs at the traditionally black school in the past few years.
“Money’s always an issue, especially right now,” Willis said. “But I think the board wants to see the buildings survive and be a useful entity for the community.”
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Both proposals aim at helping the community, but they offer little money. The city of Eatonton offered $1 to take over the property to turn the school into apartments for seniors. Bob and Valerie Landau helped organize plans that would buy the school for $1,000 to turn it into assisted-living apartments, a nursing home and perhaps a hospice.
The property is assessed at $1.25 million and sits on 25 acres of land, county records show. The school system said the property consists of about 22 acres.
The city’s proposal is inspired by Macon’s Pearl Stephens Village, which mixed an historic elementary school with new construction to create low-income housing for seniors. Eatonton City Manager Dan Elmore, Mayor John Reid, and his wife, Putnam County Commissioner Janie Reid, toured Pearl Stephens before submitting the proposal.
“We looked at it and said, ‘This is something we’d like to have in Eatonton,’ ” Elmore said. The proposal could meld new and converted apartments for seniors with a small branch library and boutiques such as a hairdresser and florist.
Valerie Landau said her proposal would keep the historic building intact, provide about 50 jobs for area residents and give elderly residents a good place to stay. The development could even partner with local schools, letting children and seniors learn from each other, giving a school culinary program more experience and exposing youths to careers in health care.
“I thought this was a real building block for the community and within the community, and there’s not a lot of big dreams going into the community,” she said.
The Butler-Baker School opened in 1956 as a black school covering first grade through high school. In 1961, Walker was the valedictorian. Her book “The Color Purple” was turned into a movie by Stephen Spielberg. The school spans a portion of the border between Eatonton and Putnam County. Regular elementary school classes ended there about a decade ago, though the school was used last year for Head Start programs.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.