Tuesday, January 27, 2015
New life for a venerable structure
District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. watches as Sekou Shabaka, Frances Anderson, and Chair of the Goochland Board of Supervisors Susan Lascolette, District 1 cut a ribbon marking the opening of the newly renovated Central High School gym.
On Saturday, January 24, a new day dawned for Goochland’s venerable Central High School as its newly renovated gym was dedicated as a county recreational facility.
During a pause in youth basketball games, a ribbon was cut to commemorate the reopening. A slight aroma of floor varnish was in the air. District 2 Supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. observed that Central High School was built to separate the races. He expressed the hope that new uses for the school will now serve to bring them together.
Alvarez observed that the commitment of the community to revitalizing the Central High School building made things happens. He credited County Administrator Rebecca Dickson figuring out how to make the reuse of the building work given budgetary constraints.
Chair of the Goochland Board of Supervisors Susan Lascolette, District 1, said that the Central high School renovations are a perfect example of what can happen when the citizens and local government work in harmony.
Frances Anderson and Goochland Branch NAACP president Sekou Shabaka joined Lascolette in a symbolic ribbon cutting. Shabaka said that he planned to give his portion of the ribbon to a friend who graduated from Central High School. He thanked the supervisors for listening to the community.
Built in the 1930’s to educate Goochland’s African American student, the building was folded into the county school system after desegregation and used as the middle school. Additions were grafted on here and there. It became surplus property when the middle school wing of the “new” high school opened in 2007 and has pretty much moldered ever since.
Since taking office in 2012, District 2 supervisor Manuel Alvarez, Jr. sought input from the community, especially those that attended Central High School, on possible uses for the facility. The supervisors added a $500,000 “placeholder” to the current fiscal year’s budget to address the issue.
A fairly detailed analysis of the building and grounds was undertaken and a report made last fall. The original building, which has historical significance as Central High School, is a good candidate for reuse. Additions have slab foundations and followed the topography of the site using stairs and ramps to transition between levels. Making these portions of the school Americans with Disability Act compliant would be expensive. There is the possibility of an indoor skateboard course, but the liability insurance could be prohibitive.
The gym, however, just needed floor refinishing, cleaning and some work on the heating system to get it back in action. Restroom renovations are still in the works, but the kids chasing each other up and down the court didn’t seem to mind using porta jons in the interim.
According to Derek Stamey, Director of Parks, Recreation and Facilities Management, until the Central High facility opened, there was only one hour per week not reserved on the county’s other basketball courts.
Stamey said that is very rewarding to see the Central High School gym come back to life to serve the community.
Alvarez said that the gym renovation is just the beginning. A community committee will be appointed in the next few weeks to take a close look at realistic uses for the rest of Central High School. Suggestions so far have included renovation of the cafeteria to include a commercial kitchen that could accommodate civic events and senior citizen activities.
The bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Renovating the entire building is an expensive proposition, so specific goals must be established to ensure that funds are wisely spent to benefit the community.