The Richmond County Board of Education will hold a public hearing next week to allow residents to express views about the closing of Leak Street High School.
The closing will be of the Leak Street High School physical property located on Leak Street and Hood Street in Rockingham.
The public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Board Room of the Richmond County Board of Education, 118 Vance St., Hamlet.
Associate Superintendent Robert Beck said he doesn’t anticipate anyone at the public hearing speaking in opposition of the closing of the building that is no longer being used for school. According to Beck, the students of Leak Street High School have been relocated to the building on Mizpah Road in Rockingham that also contains the Transitional School.
“The hearing is to inform the public on the cessation of using the building as a school,” said Beck. “In 2007 we began a realignment of the schools and this will be our fifth building we’ve gotten rid of. The plan is that once the Board of Education deems it surplus, we’ll offer it to the county, who will either refuse it or accept it. Then the board will offer it to the Leak Street Cultural Center who is interested in it. The board would offer it to them at a nominal price.”
Nominal is an understatement, and Beck drew on the example of the Hoffman Elementary School; the building was sold to the Town of Hoffman for $1.
“I don’t think anyone will be against it,” said Beck. “I think they will be happy to get the building.”
Beck said the Richmond County school system can’t afford to heat and cool the building for academic use, “plus, we had another building renovated for $4 million, 10 years ago,” said Beck. “Our thing was, we had this other facility that was more efficient to use.”
“I plan to go to the hearing,” said J.C. Watkins, president of the Leak Street Cultural Center, “not to speak in opposition, but to relay the impact this school has had on our community. We regret the closing of the school, but we understand. The board has not officially offered it to us yet.”
Watkins said the school’s roots trace back to the early 1900s, when a one-room school stood near the tracks, where today’s Chamber of Commerce building stands.
“Down there, that was where black folk lived,” explained Watkins. “That whole Leak Street area was not developed. Back then it was Rockingham Graded School, and it was a wooden structure. I lived out in Ledbetter at the time and I went to Lincoln School until the seventh grade. I started grade school at Rockingham Colored High School in 1935.”
Over time, buildings slowly came up, and the building that stands today was built after World War II. The gymnasium was built by masonry students, because the school board didn’t have money for the gym’s construction. Watkins was a teacher there at the time the students pitched in on bricks together and slowly built the four walls after laying the foundation. The school board finally stepped in and payed to have the building completed.
Watkins said that although he would like the Cultural Center to receive the building, he is not sure what to do with it.
“Right now we have no planned programs,” said Watkins. “There is also no funding. We hope the building will be used for some good purpose in the community.”
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.