A new school for Beaufort County?

Published 12:01 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

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In 2018 and 2019, I performed contract work for Beaufort County Schools. During that time, I had the privilege of doing work in all the schools and performed some tasks that needed to be done. It was a very positive experience. The staff and teachers I worked with were professionals.

Do the schools have some problems? Yes, all schools have some problems. Some problems are caused by the state and federal government. School performance was down because of Covid but is slowly making a comeback. Shutting down schools for any period of time hurts education.

While I was a county commissioner, I never gave Beaufort County Schools enough credit. They are better than I thought they were. I like to think that they’re going to get better in the future.

This includes Eastern and J.C. Tayloe elementary Schools. Both are old schools and have many shortcomings. From my standpoint, they are the two worse schools in the district from a physical standpoint.

The County Board of Commissioners voted in favor of funding a local match to build one new school to replace Eastern and J.C. Tayloe elementary schools at their recent meeting. I believe this is a step forward and I support it.

Combining them into one new school will benefit education, the community and economic development. With security being such a concern now-a-days, special emphasis can be put on building a safe and secure school. Through advances in design, maintenance requirements will be reduced. Plus, old buildings require a lot of maintenance.

Combining the two schools will save significant recurring fixed cost, about $700,000 or more in my opinion. With the state providing the overwhelming funding for the school, this is an opportunity Beaufort County cannot pass up. If Beaufort County didn’t do it, the money would move elsewhere and we will have missed an opportunity that most counties would die for.

When I was involved in economic development, we had business prospects come to the community who would evaluate us. We were competing with other communities and we had to put on a good show.

One of the things most wanted to do was look at the schools. When they looked, it was always a drive-by. Nice brand-new school got a good review; old run-down school got a bad review. It didn’t matter how good the school actually was. Perception was everything.

There has been a lot of work done to improve the community. Downtown Washington has changed greatly and become a destination. The new police station put a new face on Washington. Work at the industrial parks in Aurora, Washington, Chocowinity and the Airport is moving forward. New housing is being built in and around Washington.

Beaufort County is moving forward. It’s a pleasant change. Unlike some rural communities, Beaufort County is looking to the future. Let’s move forward and build that school.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.