Door left open as to future of Hanes-Lowrance campus

Door left open as to future of Hanes-Lowrance campus
August 18
14:01 2021

Last week members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) Board of Education decided to maintain the former campus of Hanes-Lowrance Middle School, located on Indiana Avenue, instead of donating the property to the City of Winston-Salem. But district leaders did leave the door open for partnering with the city to bring some much needed resources to the community. 

Here’s what we know: last month Winston-Salem City Councilmember Barbara Hanes Burke held a press conference to ask WS/FCS to gift the former campus of Hanes-Lowrance to the city. Burke discussed plans to transform the facility into a “one-stop community center” that would offer several different programs and resources. 

“We would like the school to be repurposed and turned into a one-stop transformational, transitional community center,” said Burke during the press conference held outside City Hall. 

WS/FCS hasn’t used the facility on Indiana Avenue since 2015 when the school board voted to move students out of the building after parents raised concerns about chemicals underneath the school and surrounding neighborhoods, even though tests conducted by the city proved the school was safe. Earlier this year the board discussed moving the bus maintenance facility to Indiana Avenue. 

The maintenance facility, which is currently located on Lansing Drive, was sold to TW Garner Foods. Hanes Burke said the people who live in the community have let it be known they don’t want the maintenance facility in their neighborhood. 

During a school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 10, assistant superintendent Darrell Walker said the district is no longer looking to move the maintenance facility to Indiana Avenue. To move the facility to Indiana Avenue, the property would have to be rezoned for industrial use. Burke, who represents the Northeast Ward where the facility is located, has said on record that she would not approve rezoning of the property.  

“Right now the rezoning issue is not on the table, but at a district staff and meeting with Mrs. McManus, we have identified several different capacity needs within the district, from a program perspective,” Walker said. 

After a brief overview of district needs, Walker suggested that the district use the 21-acre property on Indiana Avenue to house different programming needs. He also discussed ways the district could partner with the city. 

“When we come back with the plan … there’s going to be a piece of that that I want to save for community use. So maybe the Lowrance portion will be a medical clinic space, conference room meeting space, and then we’ve talked about converting the kitchen into a teaching kitchen and working with some partners to come in to teach folks how to cook food, can food, and do that on weekends and after hours so it gets that community use,” Walker said. “I know it’s not exactly what they want, but it is a bit of an olive branch to put out there.” 

Walker said district staff plans to speak with architects and developers over the next few weeks and come back to the board with a recommendation next month. He also mentioned that a new air quality study has been conducted in the area. 

If the board does decide to repurpose the facility, according to Walker it would need about $5 million in repairs. Right now The Little Theatre of Winston-Salem, a local performing arts organization, is leasing space in the building. 

Elisabeth Motsinger, who is the longest serving member on the board of education, said she would like to see the district reclaim the building and let the community know that the building is safe.

“It’s important that we all learn that these buildings are good buildings and they’re usable buildings,” Motsinger continued. “I think it’s really important, educating our community that these kinds of plumes are under most of the city of Winston-Salem and it’s important that we reclaim these areas. One of my biggest reasons for making a big deal about that is that if we don’t learn about this, we will never build schools in cities again and that would be a terrible, terrible travesty against our children.” 

Dana Caudill Jones, who serves as chair of the building and grounds committee, said she hopes that the district can find a way to partner with the city on repurposing the facility. 

“I think Mrs. Burke brought up some great things that the community needs,” Jones said. “My hope is that we can have some conversation around this property so it fits the needs that the district needs, but yet it fits the needs that Councilwoman Burke has brought up and I think if we can do something like that, then it’s a win for the whole community.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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