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Granville commissioners dubious about proposed Hawley school project
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CREEDMOOR — Granville County Commissioners signaled this week that they’re unlikely to support putting money toward rebuilding G.C. Hawley Middle School, and instead would prefer to see the county school board engage in a further round of school consolidations.

More than one commissioner suggested that would mean combining the two high schools that serve the southern end of Granville County — Granville Central and South Granville High — and turning one of the campuses into a replacement middle school for Hawley.

Their comments came after the architect Granville County Public Schools leaders hired to come up with renovation options for Hawley, Katherine Peele, told commissioners and the school board that two of the buildings on the Hawley campus are so old and run down they should be replaced.

She estimated that putting up a 64,000-square-feet replacement to house the sixth and seventh grades, and doing some maintenance to the eighth-grade building, would cost up to $23 million.

A couple of add-on possibilities, namely a better roof and a new auditorium, would bump that up to about $30 million, she said during Monday’s joint meeting of the two boards.

Those numbers inspired no obvious support from county commissioners for the project, and comments from a couple of them that it would amount to throwing money down a hole when there are renovation needs on other campuses in the county school system.

“I’ve never been asked to be Tonya Harding before, to kneecap a board,” said Commissioner Tim Karan, alluding to the figure skater who in the early 1990s conspired to have a competitor injured before a meet. “But I can’t see all that effort not to let you know that I’m not for a bond referendum to put money into Hawley.”

The consolidation suggestions came after school officials noted that they’ve closed schools in the northern part of Granville County, namely the former Joe Toler-Oak Hill Elementary School and the former Mary Potter Middle School, and that they’re trying to figure out a strategy for the schools in the southern part of Granville.

Stan Winborne, assistant superintendent, said the fundamental problem remains that the school system over a decade has lost 20% of its students, and governmental funding that accompanies them, to charter schools.

That upended planning by the system and the county that saw them build and open Granville Central High in 2007 and Tar River Elementary School in 2011, said Winborne, who oversees operations and human resources for Superintendent Alisa McLean.

Winborne stressed that the missing students aren’t just attending local charter schools.

“We now send children to 37 different charter schools,” he said. “We send children literally across the state. Our tax dollars from the county follow these children. And some of those are quite far away.”

He added that officials are in the midst of trying to come up with a strategic plan to address, among other things, a prospective consolidation of the district’s three elementary schools in the Butner-Creedmoor area.

In pondering their options for Hawley, officials thought about converting Creedmoor Elementary or Mount Energy Elementary into a middle school, but ultimately put that idea aside because it’s difficult to make a campus designed as an elementary school work for a middle-school program.

Hawley presents a dilemma because the “campus is in a pretty bad state,” with buildings that in some cases date from the early 1960s, Winborne said.

Steele added the problems in the older building include drainage issues, uninsulated windows, undersized corridors, deteriorating ceilings, moisture infiltration, exposed wiring, asbestos tile underneath carters and an HVAC system that “does not provide proper humidification.”

Commissioners toured the Hawley campus recently and agree that it isn’t up to par, to the point that conditions there are prompting some of the flight to charter schools.

“I truly was appalled, not only thinking about the children in that environment, but the teachers and staff members who had to be in that environment,” Commissioner David Smith said. “I thought Granville County can do better than this for our students.”

But “we have to look at numbers and we have to be realistic,” he added. “It may be time for us all to make some hard choices and time to do some consolidation.”

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Cooper Ayscue (center), 3, makes a big jump as he plays with his 1-year-old brother Colson and mom Jessica Ayscue at First Baptist Church on West Winder Street in downtown Henderson.

Brothers bounce around the playground

Area libraries are turning the page on pandemic restrictions
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HENDERSON — Libraries in the Tri-County area are moving toward normal operation. But they aren’t quite there yet.

Perry Memorial Library in Henderson announced that it will begin “limited public access” beginning on April 5. The library will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m to noon and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

All four branches of the Granville County Library System — Oxford, Creedmoor, Stovall and Berea — will be open to the public from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning on April 5. All branches will continue to be closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Warren County Memorial Library has been operating on a restricted schedule for several weeks, with public access available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

“We look forward to being able to provide computer and browsing services to our customers again,” said Perry Library Director Patti McAnally in a news release announcing the reopening of the library.

Meeting rooms, study areas and history rooms in the Perry Library will not be available.

Patrons are reminded that face masks covering the mouth and nose will be mandatory for everyone 5 years and older. Children under 11 must be supervised by an adult.

Perry Library has provided curbside pickup of materials since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. “Curbside pick-up for materials has been very popular and the library is planning to continue and sustain this service in the future,” Assistant Director Christy Bondy said.

To use the service, patrons can place holds online or by telephone. At the library’s online address — http://perry.nccardinal.org/eg/opac/home — a user can follow the Catalog link to search for materials and place holds. Users also can call the library at 252-438-3316 to make a request. The material will be ready 24 hours later.

Curbside pickup will continue to be available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m..

Items can be returned by placing them in the outside book drop located on the Winder Street side of the library.

Patrons who are unable to come to the library due to health or COVID-19 concerns may contact the adult outreach assistant, TaMarsha Quick, to discuss delivery options. She can be reached at 252-438-3316, extension 223.

Perry Memorial Library is located at 205 Breckenridge St. in Henderson.

Oxford to vote on paving-finance plan next week
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OXFORD — Oxford’s elected leaders will hold a vote on April 5 to move forward with an initiative to finance the resurfacing of streets within the city.

The paving-finance plan would require Oxford to borrow a significant amount of money but Mayor Jackie Sergent is optimistic there will not be any further hang ups that get in the way of the project.

“We are required with [the N.C. Department of Transportation] to advance them the money,” Sergent said. “We have to go for a loan that is at $1.25 million and there are two pieces to this. One of them is to get the conditions approved by the [N.C.] Local Government Commission, and the other is to hold a public meeting that is sufficiently well-advertised.”

Sergent said that Monday’s meeting was to hold a public hearing on Oxford’s intention to borrow the money from Branch Banking & Trust at 2.14% interest for a term of 10 years.

Since Oxford’s city council still meets through Zoom, members were not allowed to vote on the matter until 24 hours had passed. Sergent initially believed they would have to immediately approve the measure, but said that the current circumstances have given officials some breathing room to work with.

While the process to get the roads resurfaced in Oxford has been frustrating at times for Sergent, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, she expressed relief that everything is finally starting to gain traction and is eager to see the borrowed money put to good use.

“We’ve been working on this for quite some time,” Sergent said. “The [DOT] did not notify us until a couple of weeks ago, so we only had 10 days notice for the public hearing. None of this is a surprise to us but we’re finally at the point of putting this into motion.”

Numerous streets and areas in Oxford would fall under the resurfacing plan, like McClanahan Street, Old Warehouse Square, East Spring Street and Gill Street among others. Additional streets could be added to the list depending on what contractors have to offer when it comes to bidding.

If everything proceeds as planned, bidding would begin in May on the projects Oxford and the DOT are working on. Once the contracts are awarded by the DOT, there will be an 18-month period to complete the resurfacing, which can start at any time after June.

Sergent said that is a rarity for the DOT to allow a city to piggyback on its paving projects, adding that doing so allows Oxford to get more roads completed while also making room for curbing changes and replacing water and sewer lines underground.

She said focus of the resurfacing plan came down to caring for local residents and ensuring that they have high-quality streets to drive on at a value that is reasonable for them.

“We are very excited and proud to be moving forward with this,” Sergent said. “It took a lot of work to do our streets in conjunction with [the DOT] at a better price for Oxford residents. At the end of the day, we want to deliver quality services at affordable prices.”