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Thursday’s weather didn’t dampen the spirits of supporters who turned out in a driving rain to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Sallie B. Howard High School for the Arts and Education.
Foundation has already begun for the facility to be located behind the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education on Herring Avenue.
The $5 million, 27,000-square-foot building will house between 200 and 250 students when it opens in the fall of 2020.
“It’s an extra special school that is preparing these kids for great, great accomplishments,” said JoAnne Woodard, founder and executive director of the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education.
Howard, who died on Sept. 25, was a career educator who was the inspiration for the Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education, established in 1997 for elementary and middle school children.
“I remember when that old shirt factory building was here. To see it today is unreal,” said Wilson Mayor Bruce Rose. “It is a beautiful school here today for these kids. It is a great organization for our city.”
Maurice Coble, who has been at the school since its inception, said seeing it grow from a summer program into what it is now, with the addition of a high school, is a blessing.
“In addition to the arts, it will also feature biotechnology preparing our students for apprenticeships and jobs of the future,” Coble said. Coble said the new high school will be collaborating with Wilson Community College to set students off on the right foot.
“I think it is going to be mutually advantageous for Wilson Community as well as Sallie B. Howard,” Coble said. “We look forward to using those facilities, and if there is anything we can do to let them use our facilities that will be great as well.”
“It’s a great collaboration,” said Tim Wright, president of Wilson Community College. “We really look forward to working with Sallie B. Howard as closely as we can. Our senior staffs have already met with each other to start working out ways to get those Sallie B. Howard High School students as much college education as we possible can. They are almost literally on our campus, right across a narrow street, so it is a great opportunity to work with a high school as closely as possible and get those high school students as many credits as we can get them.”
Farrior and Sons Inc. Construction of Farmville is the general contractor for the project.
“We are certainly looking forward to being part of the construction process here at Sallie B. Howard and forming these relationships is very important to us,” said Bill Farrior Jr., president of the company.
According to Farrior, a lot of the site work has been completed and fill material has been placed on the building pad.
“About 60 percent of the building foundations are in,” Farrior said. “We have also done a lot of site utility work that had to be done before construction could start.”
Russ Woods of Dunn and Dalton Architects of Kinston designed the building.
Woods said the structure will have a brick exterior with some split face block accents and a metal roof.
The structure will contain classroom space, science classrooms, an administration area for the high school, a band room, a chorus room, dance classrooms, a drama room and a media center.
“This is a first phase. It’s the high school portion with all of the classroom space, and then a second phase would be to build in the courtyard of this building a future auditorium space,” Woods said. “The design is done such that phase 2 can just kind of insert right into the courtyard space.”
Dunn and Dalton did the original renovation for this school, converting the textile factory in 2000.
“It has just been a joy to work with this school and help them achieve their vision and their dreams,” Woods said.
School leadership announced earlier this year that they had decided to delay the project by one year to better plan for the facility.
“It gave us some time to go through that phased approach to figure out how the auditorium could fit into this whole idea and it gave them more time to design and get through all of the details and do a project that is going to be functional for them for years to come,” Woods said.
The plan is to have the construction completed by this time next year and to start school the following year in the fall of 2020.
“I think we should all recognize Dr. JoAnne Woodard because, quite frankly, we wouldn’t be standing here without her,” said Bob Worthington, who is on the board of the school. “She’s the real article. If she wants it, it’s going to happen.”
Coble said Sallie B. Howard would be pleased.
“I know she is looking down from heaven with a tremendous smile and beaming with pride as to what JoAnne has been able to do,” Coble said. “It is through her guidance and leadership that we are where we are today.”