Old school will have new look

Published 10:50 am Friday, November 19, 2010

WINDSOR – The facility that formerly served as J.P. Law Elementary in Merry Hill will soon again be in use as a community site and playground, after funds are received through the Golden Leaf Foundation to purchase new equipment.

Misty Deanes, Executive Assistant to the Bertie County Manager and Clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, spoke on behalf of Bertie County Recreation Director Donna Mizelle during Monday night’s meeting of the commissioners.

“We have revised the Golden Leaf grant to include J.P. Law, and have come up with an exciting new project to revamp J.P. Law, not as a school but as a community site,” Deanes noted.

The revamping is part of the Community Recreation Project funded by Golden Leaf.  The intent of the project is for the county, in coordination with the school system, to ensure recreation is accessible beyond the central recreation facility in Windsor, and to make sure athletic and recreation facilities are located in communities throughout the county.

Deanes added, “Several officials have met with community members in the Merry Hill area who have said they will work to make sure the site stays safe and to prevent vandalism since it’s in an isolated location.”

In total, $197,089 from the $500,000 in grant funds will be spent on playground equipment countywide, with $46,072.84 going toward equipment at the J.P. Law site.

Bertie County Schools has committed to up to $117,000 in matching funds for improvements to both J.P. Law and C.G. White (Powellsville) schools.

While the school system will be responsible for maintenance of the J.P. Law site as well as the new and improved playgrounds at other school sites, and the facilities will be used by school children during the day, they are also usable by community members during non-school hours.

After Deanes’ statement, Commissioner Rick Harrell inquired, “Is this tonight supposed to be an announcement about J.P. Law coming back, because this is the first I’ve heard of it.”

Commissioner L.C. Hoggard noted, “I think what Commissioner Harrell is trying to say is his concern over a lack of communication, but we’ve got to get past that and look at it as a great thing.”

Harrell further stated, “My concern as the Commissioner from Merry Hill is that we worked hard to get that school shut down and I thought I would at least have been told of plans to reopen it.”

County Manager Zee Lamb noted, “After talking to the Women’s Club (in Merry Hill), they weren’t able to get funds to place a recreation facility at their site since they are not a 501c3 (non-profit organization), so we met with the school system and they said they will seek the funds and maintain the building and grounds.”

Deans added, “Everyone felt it was important to include Merry Hill in this effort since J.P. Law and the Women’s Club were the only two community centers there, and after the Women’s Club couldn’t get the funds, J.P. Law was the only other option.”

Lamb asked the board to move forward with approving the matter, and Commissioner Harrell made a motion to accept the revised grant to include J.P. Law.  The motion passed without objection.

J.P. Law Elementary was closed at the end of the 2006-2007 school year as part of the conclusion of a desegregation case between the U.S. Department of Justice and Bertie County Schools.