Phase one of the restoration of the historic Peake School is completed, and phase two is getting underway.

Phase one of the restoration of the historic Peake School is completed, and phase two is getting underway.
According to Pat Wright, one of the leading forces behind the renovation of the Rosenwald School, phase two will involve gutting the interior of the school and reverting it back to its original layout. Through the years, many temporary walls and fixtures have been added for various purposes.
Phase one was a face-lift for the outside of the property, which has not been in use for a decade and, since that time, has fallen into disrepair.
For Wright, the project holds a special meaning. Wright was one of the final graduates of Peak School. While by the time Wright entered high school a new secondary building had been built, she still remembers having a math class as an elementary student in the basement of the old school.
“So many people don’t have a clue of how much history there is here, and how this school had an impact in educating African Americans,” Wright said.
It is through grants from the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program and funding from the school district that the restoration is seeing the light of day.
The Rosenwald schools were a series of about 5,000 schools that were constructed across the U.S. between 1917 and 1932, specifically for the purpose of African American education.
Julius Rosenwald, a German-Jewish immigrant and the CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Company, made friends with former slave Booker T. Washington, and together they began to champion the black education cause.
The schools were one result of the partnership, and Rosenwald gave communities a starter fund to help get construction going. The community then raised the remaining funds.
Peake School was a result of this project.
Today, there are only 16 of what once totaled almost 400 Rosenwald schools in Arkansas. After integration in the 1960s, the schools began to slowly fade away. The Peak School is now a member of an endangered species.
According to the Peake School’s 2000 reunion book, Peake School was constructed as a replacement to the Sloan School that was destroyed by a fire in 1926. It opened its doors in 1928.
For many years, the school’s first through eighth grade education was the only kind available for black students in Arkadelphia. Originally, the enrollment was just under 300. Ultimately, secondary classes were added for the students.
In 1960, Peake High School was constructed, and served as the location for grades seven through twelve. That building is now Peake Primary School.
Arkadelphia Public Schools were totally integrated in 1970, and the historic Peake School continued to serve as an elementary school for many years. Later, it was the home of a Head Start program. Today, though, it is empty.
According to Wright, the renovated building will include a museum highlighting the history of the school. Pictures from every graduating class will line the walls, and as many photographs of different faculty members as possible will be placed on display.
“It is important to preserve the history of the school, and realize the important and significance of the school. It’s part of the legacy of our community,”?said Wright.
Wright said that anyone with memorabilia they would like to donate for the museum, such as yearbooks or lettermen jackets, call her at 246-5564.
The chorus to the school’s song read “Sun or rain, it is just the same - we’ll be loyal forever to Peake High School.”
A group of volunteers working on the  project are showing that their loyalty remains strong.