Finance Committee approves land sale for new Ashley

Finance Committee approves land sale for new Ashley
October 17
03:10 2019

Mayor Pro Tempore Burke raises concerns about sale, failed development in the past

The Finance Committee of the Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approved the sale of city-owned land to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools for a new elementary school in East Winston on Monday.

The land in question is 18 lots located near East 21st Street and Fairview Park. The new school would replace outdated Ashley Academy for Global and Cultural Studies, which is located at 1647 NE Ashley School Circle, less than two miles from the land on New Hope Lane.

When Ashley opened its doors as an elementary school in the mid-1990s, it was already old. The school was originally built in the 1960s and operated as a middle school until it closed in the early 1980s. The school started making headlines when faculty and staff started complaining about a lingering mold issue in the school. Although Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools stepped in and made more than $1.38 million in repairs to correct the issues at the school, the damage had been done. In August 2018, Action4Equity, the local NAACP, and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a federal civil rights claim against the district.

Since that time, Action4Equity and other organizations with a vested interest in the matter have kept the fire at the feet of the Board of Education and other district administrators by demanding a new Ashley be built.

The proposed sale will include 18 residential lots between East 21st Street and Bethlehem Lane near Highway 52 for the amount of $207,076. To finalize the sale, the City of Winston-Salem will have to rescind an agreement with the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS). In 2005 the City Council adopted a resolution designating HAWS as the “preferred developer” for the project called Northeast Winston #2. In the 14 years since approval was granted, HAWS has not proceeded with the development of the residential lots.

During the Finance Committee meeting on Monday, Oct. 14, Mayor Pro Tempore Burke brought up some valid concerns about the sale of the land to the school district. Burke raised concerns about the crime in the area and the impact it may have on students in elementary school.

“I want you to know the crime is high in the area,” Burke said. “Our Winston-Salem Police are up there every day. I said to the person that is the acting (officer) that you need to get more security in the area. Because when we’re up there starting at the a.m. on the corner of 16th and Liberty, the individual sits daily on their little carts or on the ground. And then on 17th Street between Liberty and Cleveland … the visitors act more like the residents and the residents who live there are afraid.”

Burke said that we have failed as far as getting HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development) to supplement and change the area. And as of this date, the city has spent more than $6 million to improve the neighborhood, but not much has changed.

Burke continued, “We know there has to be a change there. We can no longer allow our citizens to live daily in the kind of conditions that they’re living in.”

Burke also brought up the fact that no school board member, parent, or teacher from Ashley was in attendance during the meeting. She said when they started talking about the project a few years ago, the neighborhood was much better and she doesn’t want people to think that the city is in the business of building schools.

Darrell Walker, who serves as assistant superintendent of operations, said they have evaluated several different properties within Ashley’s residential zone and after some discussions, they realized they have the opportunity to bring more than just a school to the area.

“We realized it could be a pretty powerful partnership as we continue to move forward,” Walker said. “We have had a lot of discussion around things other than just a school there. We have had discussions around a daycare, medical clinic, dental clinic, to serve the community as well as our children at Ashley.

“We’ve looked at this as an economic opportunity to be a big part of our redevelopment. We’ll have Ashley on one end and the Career Center, Carter, and Kennedy on the other, two educational components to better serve that community.”

When it came time to vote on the proposal, Burke made the motion to sell the land and it was seconded by Councilmember Denise “DD” Adams. The motion passed 4-0.

Although the motion passed, it will still need to go before the full council before the sale is final. And as for the school, WS/FCS will still have to find funds to build a new Ashley. According to Walker, a new school would cost about $30 million. To get that funding, the district will have to make some changes to the projects approved in the 2016 Bond or wait until another bond is approved by voters.

Only time will tell.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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