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Boys & Girls to lease D.F. Walker

070917DF Walker building

The Chowan Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve plans for the Boys & Girls Club of the Albemarle to lease the two-story former D.F. Walker School building, seen here in Edenton in this July file photo.

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By Reggie Ponder and Miles Layton
Cooke Communications

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

EDENTON — The Boys & Girls Club of the Albe­marle is pre­par­ing to move into the for­mer D.F. Walker School build­ing next to the Eden­ton-Chowan Cam­pus of Col­lege of The Albe­marle — a de­vel­op­ment COA of­fi­cials wel­come as a com­ple­ment to the adult ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams the col­lege op­er­ates on the re­main­der of the prop­erty.

COA Pres­i­dent Robert Wyne­gar said Tues­day that the com­mu­nity col­lege is pleased that the build­ing will be ren­o­vated and more peo­ple will be on the cam­pus. The move should con­trib­ute to COA’s con­tin­u­ing ef­fort to re­vi­tal­ize the Eden­ton-Chowan Cam­pus, ac­cord­ing to Wyne­gar.

“We are happy about it,” he said.

Not­ing there ap­par­ently has been some con­fu­sion about the Chowan cam­pus’ sta­tus be­cause of a new space-shar­ing agree­ment with the Eden­ton-Chowan Schools and the Boys & Girls Club, COA of­fi­cials re­leased a state­ment Tues­day not­ing the col­lege con­tin­ues to have a pres­ence in Edenton.

“While en­roll­ment has de­creased over time, the col­lege’s Culi­nary Arts Pro­gram is quite strong and is of­fer­ing sev­eral gen­eral ed­u­ca­tion classes for those stu­dents work­ing to­wards an as­so­ciate de­gree,” Wyne­gar said in a state­ment re­leased by the col­lege. “The col­lege is also work­ing with the lo­cal com­mu­nity and of­fer­ing sev­eral Con­tin­u­ing Ed­u­ca­tion and Ca­reer Readi­ness classes” on the cam­pus.

COA also con­tin­ues to host manda­tory train­ing for cor­rec­tions of­fi­cers at the Eden­ton-Chowan cam­pus and re­cently in­vited the Eden­ton-Chowan Schools to re­lo­cate its ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices to the cam­pus.

The Chowan Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted unan­i­mously Mon­day to ap­prove plans for the Boys & Girls Club to lease the two-story brick build­ing. Board Chair­man Jeff Smith called the agree­ment “prob­a­bly one of the bet­ter things that Chowan County has done in a long time,” adding “I think it is a new day for the cam­pus over there and a new day for the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the county and the youth of our county.”

Boys & Girls Club Direc­tor El­iz­a­beth Mitchell cited the Eden­ton’s club full ca­pac­ity for the de­ci­sion to lease space in the for­mer D.F. Walker Build­ing.

“We were run­ning out of room, so that’s why we did this to ac­com­mo­date the need that keeps grow­ing,” she said. “We have a wait list and we con­tinue to get calls ev­ery­day from par­ents ask­ing to reg­is­ter their chil­dren. It’s good that we’ll have a new place to stay so we can serve more chil­dren and teenagers in our com­mu­nity.”

The club cur­rently serves 85 kids and teens a day.

Eden­ton Mayor Roland Vaughan said the agree­ment will make Chowan County a bet­ter place to live.

“What re­ally gives me a lot of plea­sure as a com­mu­nity leader is first, the move (for the club) is to a bet­ter lo­ca­tion where it can serve the chil­dren of Chowan County. Se­cond, the county has a ten­ant for the va­cant Walker School build­ing,” said Vaughan, chair­man of the club’s Board of Direc­tors. “Third, D.F. Walker alumni will now know that their for­mer high school is serv­ing the needs of chil­dren through the struc­ture of the Boys & Girls Club. Fourth, COA is no longer con­cerned about a va­cant build­ing on their cam­pus and they are very ex­cited about the fu­ture use of that build­ing.

“To get all those parts satisfied — that's big time for a building that has been search of love for a long time,” he said.

County officials have expressed hope that the new agreement with the Boys & Girls Club will lead to a revitalization of the campus as well as an overall improvement of the neighborhood where it’s located.

“We feel that locating the Boys & Girls Club in the D.F. Walker Building is an important piece in improving the COA campus,” said Chowan County Manager Kevin Howard. “It will allow us to renovate the biggest eyesore on the campus if not the neighborhood. We appreciate the Boys & Girls Club being willing to partner with us and make this happen.”

D.F. Walker High School educated generations of black students in the Edenton community in the years before the Chowan schools were integrated.

For more than two years, county officials have been talking about finding a use for the building that was both self-sustaining financially and educational. Alumni of the former D.F. Walker School have publicly called for preservation of the two-story Walker School building.

County officials have estimated it will cost between $2.5 million and $4 million to repair the structure.The most critical structural issues are getting the building sealed, the windows repaired and the roof fixed.

Vaughan said the county has made plans to contribute more than $850,000 toward repairs while the Boys & Girls Club has raised nearly a $1 million toward its $1.5 million goal — money that will now be dedicated toward enhancing the facility. He praised corporate contributions from BB&T, Regulator Marine, Colony Tire, Southern Bank and UPS and pledged to go out and also seek private donations in the near future.

Vaughan said the property's location will be a bonus for youths and the community, with an emphasis on teens — a group Boys & Girls clubs are targeting nationally.

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