Boys & Girls to lease D.F. Walker
By Reggie Ponder and Miles Layton
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.