District moving forward with new Brunson Elementary at former Thomasville Furniture facility

New Brunson Elementary to be built at the old Thomasville Furniture location.

District moving forward with new Brunson Elementary at former Thomasville Furniture facility
December 02
10:49 2022

Brunson Elementary will soon have a new home. During their meeting on Nov. 15, the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education voted to move forward with the project at the Patterson Avenue site. 

Here’s what we know: On Oct. 27 the board approved the contract with Gilbane Building Company for construction of the new school on 10.5 acres of land located between Ivy Avenue, Tenth Street Northeast and Patterson Avenue, which was formerly owned by Thomasville Furniture Company. The property was purchased by the district in December 2021 for $2.5 million. Before construction for the new school can begin, Gilbane and other subcontractors will be responsible for the demolition of the building currently on the site.The vote on Nov. 15 was to approve demolition. 

Funding for a new Brunson was included in the 2016 education bonds approved by voters. The current home of Brunson Elementary school at 155 N. Hawthorne Road is built on a floodplain.

In 2020, to help decide the future of Brunson, the district issued a survey to nearly 600 parents, teachers, students, and others in the community. Those surveyed had the opportunity to decide whether they would like to see Brunson rebuilt at the current location, combining with Cook Literacy Model School, or relocating to the Crossnore School and Children’s Home on Reynolda Road. 

Despite concerns from district leaders about the Patterson Avenue site being listed on the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s (NCDEQ) list of brownfield sites, 67% of those surveyed wanted to relocate to Patterson Avenue. About 25% said they wanted Brunson to be rebuilt at its current site and only about 8% thought the two schools should merge. 

The issue with the current site is a creek that runs near the center that often floods. The current Brunson site would likely require the Army Corp of Engineering approval for stream impacts based upon current design and will cost significantly more than the other two sites. 

A brownfield site is an abandoned, idled or underused property where the threat of environmental contamination has hindered its redevelopment. The N.C. Brownfields Program, which is administered by the Division of Waste Management, is the state’s effort to break this barrier to the redevelopment of these sites. The Brownfields Property Reuse Act of 1997 sets forth funding and other assistance to help prospective developers to put the sites back to use. 

In the past, board member Malishai Woodbury raised concerns about building a school on a brownsfield site. During the last meeting of the fiscal year, Woodbury said she wanted it to be clear to the public that the site is safe and that they are taking the necessary steps to ensure everyone is safe when the school opens.

“I just want to make sure that it’s clear to the public where we are with the brownsfield requirement and making sure we move forward with building on this site with support of all the necessary elements that the state requires,” Woodbury said. 

Testing was conducted on the site in 2019 and it was determined that the site didn’t have anything that was unexpected for an urban site. 

Currently there are two schools in North Carolina operating on sites in the Brownfields Program. One is located in Raleigh and the other, Carter G. Woodson, is located on Goldfloss Street here in Winston-Salem. In 2015 it was discovered concentrations of tetrachloroethylene or PCE and trichloroethylene or TCE, that exceeded screening levels set by the state. It was later determined that students and staff were not being exposed to the contamination. 

Construction for the new Brunson Elementary is estimated to cost about $35 million and is expected to be completed in September 2025. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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