City Council approves sale of land for new Ashley elementary school

City Council approves sale of land for new Ashley elementary school
October 24
05:31 2019

The construction of a new Ashley Academy for Cultural and Global Studies took a step closer to becoming a reality earlier this week as the Winston-Salem City Council approved the sale of vacant land located near Cleveland Avenue Homes. 

As reported by The Chronicle last week, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools made a request to purchase 18 lots located near East 21st Street and New Hope Lane near Highway 52. According to public records, the cost of the lots is expected to be $207, 076.

To finalize the deal, the city council had to rescind a previous deal for the sale of 24 lots to the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem (HAWS). In 2005 the Winston-Salem City Council adopted a resolution designating HAWS as the preferred developer for the residential lots in question and authorized the purchase of the lots at their appraised values. In the 14 years since the resolution was approved, HAWS has not proceeded with the development of the lots.

During the meeting on Monday, Oct. 21, Mayor Tempore Vivian Burke, who represents the Northeast Ward where the lots are located, asked the question that has been floating around the community for some time now: what has taken so long for the new Ashley to be built?

“The people are concerned,” Burke continued. “Why did they not build a new school earlier than now? I hear a lot of people talking.”

Although Ashley opened as an elementary school in the mid-1990s, the building was originally built in the 1960s and operated as a middle school until it closed in the 1980s.

When addressing the City Council on Monday night, Darrell Walker, WS/FCS assistant superintendent of operations, said in 2016 the Board of Education had to make some tough decisions in regard to the budget and the Ashley project had to be left off the 2016 Education Bond that was approved by voters.

“We actually had a project list around $650 million. When we went to the County Commissioners for funding with debt leveling, the debt plan allowed us around $350 million. So the board had to make some really tough decisions about which projects stayed and which projects were cut.”

Walker said although funding for the construction of a new Ashley wasn’t included in the bond, funding for the design was included. He said after having discussions about the Choice Grant, they felt the vacant lots were a great opportunity to build the new Ashley. He said, “We saw a great opportunity when we had some discussions around this Choice Neighborhood Grant. We thought it was a great opportunity to reach out and see if there were any possibilities there.”

The Choice Neighborhood Grant is a $30 million federal grant designed to replace outdated public housing units with mixed housing and other community needs, such as health care facilities, community centers, and schools. HAWS announced earlier this year that they would be applying for the grant to revitalize the Cleveland Avenue Community. 

HAWS has applied for the grant three times since 2016, but it has never been approved. Walker said the district plan is to partner with other organizations in the community to provide more services for students and families. 

“Our plan is not to just build a school. We consider schools more now around community centers and getting people in our community to get involved in our schools after hours,” Walker said. “We would like to partner up and build some wraparound services at this school related to health care, dental, daycares, those kinds of things for families.”

The new Ashley will cost about $30 million. The district will have to rely on outside funding or make adjustments to the projects listed in the 2016 Bond. The district also has the option to wait until another bond is approved.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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