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C.G. White School reborn

POWELLSVILLE – An empty facility plus a grant equals better opportunity for education in Bertie County.

The previously existing &uot;More at Four&uot; program is expanding to include 50 percent more four-year-olds, and they will be housed in the now-vacant C.G. White facility starting January 24.

All children who celebrated their fourth birthday on or before October 16, 2007 and who are not currently enrolled in a pre-school program are eligible for the classes, which will be held every weekday during regular school hours.

Refurbishment on the C.G. White facility began last month and is expected to continue until just before the start date for the classes.

&uot;We have gotten expansion slots for the More at Four program from the state, expanding to 64% of all four-year-olds in Bertie County,&uot; Bertie County Schools (BCS) Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald on Friday.

He continued, &uot;Prior to the expansion there were 103 slots, then we got an additional 66 slots, so an addition of almost 50 percent.&uot;

According to Constance Richardson, BCS Director of Federal Programs, the grant was given in such a way that if the interest from parents is such that there are more children than slots, then more slots can be added.

&uot;We were one of the few counties in the state who were eligible to file an appeal for exception to local contributions for this grant, so we’re very fortunate,&uot; she added.

Currently there are two &uot;More at Four&uot; classes at Colerain Elementary, three at West Bertie Elementary, one at Aulander Elementary and one at Windsor Elementary.

The expansion will add at least two more classes to be held at C.G. White and the program will be using the back right wing of the historic school.

&uot;Back in the seventies it was a model state kindergarten site, so we just took that and refurbished it for four-year-olds,&uot; Zullinger explained.

The remodeling includes painting the trim in bright primary colors and putting in new cabinets, countertops and part of the flooring.

On a tour of the site Monday, Richardson explained that the painted trim will be used to help children learn their colors.

&uot;We have a room trimmed in red so if we tell the children to go to the red room or go get something out of it, they’ll be able to recognize it and learn their colors at the same time,&uot; she said.

Richardson credits the hard work of the Bertie County Maintenance Department for their work in getting the school refurbished so quickly.

&uot;I just can’t thank them enough; they have done a wonderful job,&uot; she said.

Kenneth Perry, Director of Operations, and Matthew Bond, Maintenance Shop Foreman, were two of the main people directly in charge of the work at the site.

In addition to housing new pre-schoolers, C.G. White will also serve to accommodate some students from other facilities.

&uot;It will help us alleviate the overcrowding problem,&uot; Zullinger stated.

He added, &uot;One day, if it’s feasible, we’d like to have all our four-year-olds in one place.&uot;

C.G. White could one day be the answer to that problem.

The &uot;More at Four&uot; program isn’t the only thing the facility will be used for, though.

Zullinger said he is currently looking into several different avenues to try and make it the best resource possible for the community.

&uot;This really begins to spell a repurpose of the facility… we are already trying to get the YMCA in there to make better use of the gym space,&uot; he stated.

There are other possible uses the school system is looking into for other programs, but Zullinger said he can’t reveal those at this time.

In any case, More at Four will account for about a fifth of the space in the school.

For more information on More at Four, call Richardson at 794-6011 or Shirley Holloman at 794-6017.

Applications can also be picked up from BCS central office at 222 County Farm Road in Windsor.

The knowledge that C.G. White will again be used for school purposes is fairly new, as the Bertie Board of Education had voted in August to accept the county’s $30,000 offer for purchase of the facility.

Since that time, however, the school board learned that their offer was based on an appraisal which did not include the entire facility, and the county learned it would not be allowed to pick and choose who could purchase the facility from them once it was acquired from the board.

During the Bertie County Commissioners meeting yesterday (Monday), mention was made of that fact and county attorney Lloyd Smith said he would begin an exchange of letters with the school board attorneys formally verifying that their offer to purchase the property was rescinded.

Last summer, the commissioners were inundated with requests from various groups who wished to either purchase or utilize the facility.

Those groups included the C.G. White Alumnae Association, the Town of Powellsville, Powellsville First Baptist Church, Shaw University, the Bertie County YMCA and Elizabeth City State University.

Which of those groups now may be able to still use the facilities in the manner they originally desired will be up to the Bertie BOE.

Zullinger indicated that he would preview this issue at the next board meeting.

&uot;The school is a vibrant part of the community and this will allow Powellsville to have a proud facility that will continue to have a strong educational purpose into the future,&uot; he added.

The school board meets again at 7 p.m. on Jan. 15.