BY CLARA VAUGHN, Eastern Shore Post —
“Save Our School” signs have adorned Accomac for over a year, and the Accomack County School Board is decisively doing that.
The board voted to pursue restoring and remodeling the former Accomac Primary School for use as a school administration building during its meeting Tuesday.
The vote approved developing a request for proposal — a document seeking bids from contractors to carry out the renovations.
According to reports, the cost is around $6 million, said School Board Chair Ronnie Holden.
“It’s falling within our budget and so this is probably the best thing for us to do,” Holden said during Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“I’m just glad we’ve gotten this far and hopefully we will get this project moving. It’s been a long time coming,” he said after the meeting.
The school board’s decision comes after deliberation over whether to renovate the Accomac Primary facility or raze it and build new offices. The public has spoken strongly in support of renovating the historic school.
“We’re just trying to save another historic building in our town,” said Accomac Town Councilmember and Vice Mayor Christopher Newman earlier this spring.
Opened as a high school in 1932, the building on Courthouse Avenue later became Accomac Primary School. It served students for about 70 years.
Distinguished by its Doric columns and red brickwork, the school is one of many historic buildings in town. It has been unoccupied for several decades and Accomack County Public Schools has used the property for storage more recently.
The school system proposed relocating the school board and related offices to the site from the existing school board office on the second floor of the Accomack County administration building, down the street from the former school.
“The county administration building is already overcrowded,” Holden said of the proposed move.
“Some of our offices are scattered and we were going to bring them together (at the new site) … It would also provide a space for the county to have larger meetings because we will have the auditorium” for school board and other meetings, he said.
A committee of Accomack School Board members and staff assessed two reports to determine if renovating the former school was feasible. They included Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Rhonda Hall; Director of Finance Beth Onley; Director of Operations and Management Bobby Bennett; school board member Paul Bull, who works in facilities management at NASA; Holden; and Superintendent Chris Holland.
“We’ve got preliminary numbers and we had telephone conversations yesterday before the board meeting because we wanted to keep that project moving,” Holden said of the Accomac Primary renovations.
The next step is to have school staff develop the request for proposals, which should take several weeks, Holden said. The school system will then advertise the project so contractors can send their proposed bids.
There is no timeframe for selecting the contractor yet, Holden said, but added he plans to provide a short update on the project’s status at the next school board meeting July 18.
“What we’re doing is recognizing the importance of the building (and) the historical preservation of the building,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be very positive,” he said.