GREENSBORO, N.C. — From the outside, it looks like a lot has been cleaned up at Hampton Elementary School in Greensboro since a tornado devastated the area in April 2018. But the school has been closed since the storm and now, the distric has decided to keep it closed for good.
In a board meeting Tuesday night, leaders with Guilford County Schools voted 6-3 in favor of closing the school. One of the main reasons was attendance. After the tornado, the district planned to move all Hampton students to Reedy Fork Elementary, a nearly 20 minute drive away. Some parents even opted to enroll their students in other schools and after polling for next year, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras says too few would be enrolled with Hampton.
But that leaves a perpetually empty school building right in the middle of a neighborhood. Scott McCully, Chief Operations Officer for the district says that they're running power to keep the burglar and fire alarms in the building on, but can't use the building for much else.
"It's not suitable for any kind of community use or any other type of function at this point," he explains.
But folks in the neighborhood worry that a school sitting empty could be a sitting duck for squatters or even looters on the property.
"The problem we got is how long do we have to keep it like a sore thumb like that? Why don't they do something with it?" asks Check Tyler, who stays around the corner from the school with his fiance.
Tyler says he wants to see a community center or something to restore the building to a hub for the kids of the community.
"Now that it's fenced off, what are you supposed to do? Leave kids to play in the street? And that's what they've been doing."
Much of what happens next could be determined by insurance money, which the district still doesn't have yet for any of the tornado-damaged schools.
As for Hampton, McCully says there are a lot of possible options, like using the building as surplus or potentially even selling the property. But nothing is set in stone, and the district would have to follow a specific process to make any changes like that.
There's also talk of maybe combining the Hampton and Peeler communities by creating a new art-focused school at the site where Peeler is now.
"It would all depend on the design and scope and lots of different factors that would play into whether we use any part of the old Peeler side or whether it would be a complete tear down and start over," McCully says. "I do know that we will need additional funds in order to build any kind of sizable addition or renovation or build a brand new school on that site."
That being said, nothing is set in stone. McCully says they're also trying to determine the future of Erwin Montessori School. He says all of this will be considered in a multi-year, district-wide master plan that school leaders will be creating to upkeep and renovate several schools in the district.