A brighter tomorrow

Published 9:49 am Monday, November 5, 2018

GATESVILLE – They dodged the raindrops, but not the task at hand.

Gates County officials gathered here Oct. 26 on a cool, gloomy morning to formally break ground on the new construction project underway at Central Middle School. The old eighth grade wing of the school has been demolished, replaced by smooth and level empty lot awaiting the sights and sounds of machinery and workers to build the future of the historic school.

“It may be dismal and raining outside, but this is a bright and happy day for the students, staff and parents of Central Middle School,” stated Dr. Barry Williams, Superintendent of Gates County Public Schools as he welcomed those assembled inside the school’s cafeteria. “After this construction is completed we will have a new home for our 6th, 7th and 8th grade students.”

Williams recognized the county officials in attendance – Commissioners Linda Hofler, Jack Owens and Billy Felton, along with County Manager Natalie Rountree and assistant Melissa Lawrence. Also present and welcomed by Williams were Board of Education members Ray Felton, Glendale Boone, Leslie Byrum, Claire Whitehurst, and Dr. Daniel Dickerson.

“I’d also like to welcome Mr. Al Chesson of A.R. Chesson (the contractor for the project), and Daniel Plyler, our construction manager. I’d like to welcome Pinnacle Architecture’s Randy Baker and Consultant Dr. Jim Watson who was a key player in making this day happen,” Williams added.

“Mr. Johnny Greene, Director of Maintenance, has been by my side since the retirement of Mr. Joe Harrell who helped me with the many pages of research and problem solving,” Williams noted.

“What we do today can improve all of our tomorrows,” Williams said of the pending project. “Many here today worked very hard to plan, design and prepare to build this school, and I want to thank all of you who played a part in it. It takes a huge team to pull this off, and your efforts are appreciated.

“This school will have a lasting impact on the families in this community and on our county for generations to come,” he added. “You should be very proud. I am confident we will see great leaders coming out of this school – true global graduates who will help shape the future of our county, our state, and the world.”

Felton, speaking on behalf of the school board, chose to address his remarks to the CMS students assembled in the cafeteria.

“This is a wonderful county we live in with some of the finest people you’ll meet anywhere on Earth,” Felton said. “That’s why we have chosen to move forward on your behalf to build this school. We couldn’t sit back and wait for someone else to do something…..this school needed a new look, all for you and the students to come in the future. This is a school we can all be proud of and we beg for your patience through all the noise of the construction. In the end it will all be worth the wait.”

Hofler, as Chairwoman of the Board of Commissioners and a retired teacher, stressed that Central Middle School has a long and proud history in the county.

“Today we start a new chapter in that history,” Hofler remarked, also choosing to stand in front of the assembled students. “Out of the ashes of the demolition will rise a new Central Middle School. We are so much looking forward to that. A better day is coming. We’re Gates County strong and we’re Gates County proud.”

Chesson told the crowd that his company has been involved with several other school construction projects in Gates County since 1992. He introduced two graduates of Central Middle and Gates County High – Daniel Plyler and Brian Plyler – Chesson employees who will oversee the CMS project.

Watson said the process to get the project off the ground has been more like a journey.

“There have been some obstacles to overcome, but Dr. Williams along with the School Board and the Commissioners have forged ahead to make this happen,” Watson stated. “We look forward to a ribbon cutting to open this school in the very near future.”

Felton later added that Doug Lilley was the School Board Chairman a few years ago who pushed for a new Central Middle School.

“He wanted to see this happen; it’s been a long row to hoe, but we’re now making this happen,” Felton said.

Dr. Williams presented plaques – designed by the school system – to mark the ground-breaking occasion to the county leaders as well as the construction and design teams.

“”To all students, parents, teachers and staff, please accept my very best wishes for success and happiness. May you spend wonderful and memorable years at Central Middle School,” Williams said in closing.

The $10.5 million project includes the complete renovation of the existing sixth and seventh grade wings of the facility.

The demolition area will be transformed into a new 41,300 square foot building. The new construction includes – for school staff – a reception area, and office space for the principal, assistant principal, finance officer, School Resource Officer, guidance counselor, and school nurse. The main office section also includes staff restrooms, a large conference room, a work room and a storage area.

The education space includes a large Business Computer Technology classroom, computer lab, CTE classroom, and 10 other classrooms for math, science, social studies, language arts, health, and STEM. The plans also call for the construction of a spacious Media Center.

There are two large rooms that will accommodate the school’s band as well as space for art students.

Across from that area of the school is a commons, flanked by student restrooms. That leads into a new gym, one that will have a wooden floor and a seating capacity of 650. The gym area also features new locker rooms.

The exterior design will afford a better and easier accessible driveway, capable of handling 75 vehicles at the time for student drop-off and pick-up purposes. A separate area to the left of the gym will serve as the bus parking lot.

The Gates County Board of Commissioners have formally adopted a measure that will allow the local government entity to move forward with borrowing up to $8.2 million for the Central Middle School renovation project.

The remaining funds (up to $2.5 million) were obtained by Dr. Williams from the state Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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