A collection of political figures held a high-energy ceremony yesterday at historic Wiley H. Bates High School to tell supporters again that they are close to transforming the boarded-up school into a senior center.
"We are moving forward this time," said Kathleen M. Koch, executive director of Arundel Community Development Services, a nonprofit housing arm of the county government. "It is going to happen."
At the hourlong ceremony inside the former Bates library, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski presented an oversized check for nearly $475,000 to the county government from the U.S. Treasury.
The federal funding, which was approved last month, is another step toward gathering the $21 million needed to complete the project, organizers said. The money will be a combination of county, state, federal and private funds.
From 1933 until Anne Arundel County integrated its schools in 1966, Bates was the county's only high school for African-Americans. From 1966 to 1981, it served as a middle school. In 1981, the building was closed.
Despite Bates being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, much of its interior and exterior are graffiti-covered. Wooden basketball backboards with no rims hang in the gymnasium. What was formerly a wood gymnasium floor is dirt-covered concrete.
Plans call for turning the 16-acre site in western Annapolis into 70 units of senior apartments, a county-operated senior center, a 22,800-square-foot facility for the Boys and Girls Club and a memorial to the school and to Bates, an Annapolis grocery store owner and alderman.
Last year, the county announced that it could have the facility ready in the fall of next year. Yesterday, officials said it would be spring 2005 at the earliest.
Several Bates alumni gathered at the ceremony as well as County Executive Janet S. Owens, Mikulski, Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele and Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch.
"This school is important for the African-American community to preserve a legacy," said Walter Caldwell, a member of the Class of 1960.
The event closed with Alma Cropper, Class of 1953, helping to lead the crowd in singing the Bates alma mater. It begins: There is a school that we love so well. It's Bates. Dear Bates.