Virtual engagement released to shape future of DeKalb County first black school



LITHONIA, GA– As part of ongoing efforts to solicit community engagement and reactivate the historic Bruce Street School, DeKalb County’s first Black public school building, event organizers have released an online form to further gather community responses and understand what people want the school site to become.

Also known as the Lithonia Negro School and the Lithonia Colored School, the Bruce Street School was built and run by Lithonia’s Black community prior to integration. The school’s first graduating high school class (around 1943) included three pupils. By 1968, when the Bruce Street School was closed, there were over a dozen elementary and eight high school classrooms – several outbuildings, now lost, had to be constructed in order to support the growing student body. The school building contains a rich history, and now people have an opportunity to determine how this space can become an active part of the community once again. The online form will be active until the next in-person community engagement session, occurring in April, and offers community members another way to engage with the visioning process.

Similar to the most recent community engagement session, the online form asks participants to imagine a gathering taking place on the 100th anniversary of the Bruce Street School’s construction, to take place in 2038. As they fill out the form, participants envision themselves looking back from that imaginary 100th anniversary event and thinking about the Bruce Street School. In 2038, what does the Bruce Street School look and feel like? How are people using the space? Participants can think creatively about how they want the site activated. Fill out the online form here.

“We hope that participants will respond freely and creatively to this prompt. There is no right or wrong answer!” said Jennifer Martin and Carley Rickles, Co-Founders and Principals of Martin Rickles Studio.

Organizers are planning two more community engagement sessions, one for April and one for May, prior to a June 19 unveiling of the proposed conceptual design. Details for these events will be forthcoming.

This project is a collaboration between the City of Lithonia, DeKalb County, and the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance. Funding has been provided by DeKalb County District 5 Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.

For more information about the project, visit

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