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Board: Port Discover could reopen this year

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A task force is working to reopen the now-closed Port Discover children's science learning center, shown here Thursday, Sept. 13, in downtown Elizabeth City. A Port Discover board member said Friday the agency's play space could reopen by year's end.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Port Discover could reopen later this year, the head of a group working to save the children's science center said Friday.

Port Discover, located on Main Street in Elizabeth City’s downtown, closed last month due to a lack of funding. That shocked and disappointed many parents and educators who relied on the nonprofit to offer activities that complemented science education in the local schools. They also sought to learn if Port Discover could be saved, leading to talks with board members and citizens this week.

Based on those talks, reopening Port Discover is a big job, but not an impossible one, Port Discover board member Annya Soucy said a phone interview Friday.

“We've developed a pretty exhaustive to-do list of what's needed,” said Soucy, who's heading a “task force” of about six people working on Port Discover.

Among the other members are Ed Meilich, Michelle Donahue, Rhonda Twiddy, Clay Rodgers and Andrew Harris, Soucy said. Harris is also the CEO of the Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies.

Soucy said the plan is to reopen Port Discover as a play space by year's end. That'll allow some use of Port Discover's toys and equipment, but Soucy said it's still to-be-determined which programs will return and when.

Soucy also said the task force is doing a “deep dive” into Port Discover's finances, so it can determine how much more funding needs to raised to sustain the center. Port Discover officials previously said the nonprofit needs to raise about $30,000 more a year. That figure tentatively appears correct, Soucy said.

Soucy also noted the task force is studying what staffing Port Discover will need; the nonprofit had no director when it closed.

Soucy also noted Port Discover needs to recruit more board members, as several have stepped down. Among those is Russ Haddad, the board’s previous chairman, who said Thursday he's stepping back from the organization.

Harris said that Port Discover is “vitally important” for supporting children's STEM education. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

“Many of our students participated in Port Discover as toddlers,” Harris said. “Port Discover was a pioneer with STEM.”

He recalled Port Discover impressed him with its programming back when he was a teacher in Perquimans County. He noted that NEAAAT, a STEM-focused charter school, was founded with Port Discover in mind.

Harris also said Tuesday he isn't a Port Discover board member, but wants to help restore a partner toNEAAAT and an asset to the community.

Anyone interested in helping Port Discover to reopen is welcome to call the center at 338-6117. For now, the answering machine will be checked weekly, Soucy said.

“We're all very much dedicated to getting Port Discover up and running again,” he said.

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