Vacant All Saints’ building to be used for summer day camp|[05/19/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2007

Two hundred Warren County youths will once again fill the halls and rolling hills that make up the campus of the almost century-old Confederate Avenue school that did not reopen to students this past fall.

The return to the classroom is part of a four-week summer Leadership Camp at All Saints’ Episcopal School, which has been vacant since the 2006 graduating class walked across the historic Dell to receive diplomas last May.

The camp, organized by Central Mississippi Prevention Services, will provide young people with morning classes in reading, writing and math, along with life-skills training and recreational activities in the afternoon.

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&#8220They will learn some good, positive things to live their lives by, but in a fun way,” said the nonprofit’s director, Joe Johnson.

The camp will be run by certified teachers, coaches and volunteers and will be weekdays June 4-29 from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. Campers will be served breakfast. Fridays will be spent mostly off campus for &#8220cultural and recreational experiences,” Johnson said.

Central Mississippi Prevention Services was started in 1999 and is funded by United Way of West Central Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health and the Mississippi Department of Human Services, as well as through donations from the City of Vicksburg and the Warren County Board of Supervisors. In addition to the annual camp, CMPS also provides an after-school homework assistance program and intensive therapeutic case management for at-risk youths.

This is the eighth year the organization has offered the camp and the second year it has been at All Saints’.

&#8220It’s a wonderful site that All Saints’ provides,” Johnson said. &#8220It allows opportunities for our teachers and students.”

All Saints’, which opened in 1908 as an all-girls college, is currently owned by the dioceses of Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Western Louisiana. Its closure last year was due to inability to collect the necessary funds to carry the school through another academic year, even though an aggressive fundraising effort was spawned after an announcement that the school could close three years ago.

Bishop Duncan M. Gray III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi is chairman of the school’s board, which will be the deciding party in the sale of the property. Rev. Frank Jenkins, who served as rector of All Saints’ in the 1960s, is in charge of the campus while it’s on the market.

&#8220We’ve had a number of people interested in purchasing it, but no firm commitment that we’ve agreed to accept,” Jenkins said. &#8220We’re determined that whoever buys the campus will have a ministry consistent with what the school’s purpose has been over the years.”

Having camps and other events is beneficial to the vacant school grounds, he said.

&#8220It gives us a good feeling that the ministry of the institution is being carried forward,” Jenkins said. &#8220It’s good for the campus and the buildings to be used. Things deteriorate quickly if they’re left empty.”

The campus is home to 40 acres with nine buildings – a main administrative and classroom building, including the school’s dining hall, five dormitories, Bratton Memorial Chapel, the head-of-school’s home and the gym. The school’s other facilities include two soccer fields, tennis courts and a competition-size swimming pool and student pavilion. The property has been appraised at $6 million.

Jenkins said the board will work with a buyer, as long as their mission is consistent with what they feel will honor the school.

&#8220We are keenly interested in what a buyer wants to do with the property,” he said. &#8220The price will be adjusted based on” that.

The facility finished last academic year as a coed boarding and day school for students in seventh through 12th grades. It had an enrollment of 124.