MOBILE, Ala. — The Barton Academy Foundation is receiving $1.25 million to restore the state’s oldest public school building.

The foundation in southwest Alabama will be awarded the funds through a challenge grant from the Ben May Charitable Trust, Al.com (http://bit.ly/2cfDpeN) reported. The gift is the largest toward restoring the historic building as Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies.

WPMI-TV reports the academy in Mobile was the first public school in Alabama, before it was transformed into the school system’s central office building. The building began being built in 1836.

In 2007, the television station said those offices were moved to west Mobile and the building has been empty ever since.

“The Ben May Charitable Trust has a long history of supporting some of Mobile’s most successful civic, cultural and educational organizations – including the expansion of the downtown library,” Jaime Betbeze, president of the Barton Academy Foundation board, said in a news release. “We are very proud to have their endorsement and support.”

The academy for grades six through 12 will teach global commerce, international relations and foreign language skills through rigorous coursework aligned with international standards.

The foundation is looking to update Barton’s interior by working with Mobile County Public Schools to secure private, business and foundation funding. In 2012, a $4.2 million from the MCPSSS allowed the foundation to renovate the exterior of Barton and adjacent Yerby School.

“The Ben May grant will be a major boost to our fundraising goal of $12 million,” Betbeze added. “This project is a great example of how a public-private partnership can bring value and innovation to Mobile.”

MCPSSS superintendent Martha Peek said Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies will take advantage of the system’s signature academies. She said there’s a lot of work instore for the building saying “it’s got to be upgraded to meet today’s standards.”

“This academy will challenge some of our best and brightest students to obtain the foreign language and global commerce skills needed to become leaders on the world stage,” she said.