Uses of old Ivor School debated

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 2, 2007

IVOR—Whether it is used primarily for youth or adults, whether for recreation or education, one thing is clear about the former Ivor Elementary School: Folks in the area want to see it put to good use, not standing empty and deteriorating.

That was the overwhelming message from 35 or so concerned citizens who turned out Tuesday to brainstorm ideas for the now-vacant building on Proctors Bridge Road.

The meeting, held in the fellowship hall of New Branch Baptist Church, was an informal event designed to give county officials a feeling for what the community’s wishes are for a structure that has been standing vacant in their midst for almost eight years.

A freewheeling conversation ensued, with Assistant County Administrator Jay Randolph jotting participants’ ideas on a flip chart. Speakers were not required to give their names, and a frank discussion of the needs of area residents was encouraged.

&uot;It saddens me when I drive by (the school) and see how it used to be, compared to how it is now,&uot; one resident said.

Others concurred, urging Randolph and County Administrator Michael Johnson to press ahead with whatever steps are necessary to get the process under way. &uot;We don’t want to see this dropped,&uot; said one participant.

Randolph told the group that Tuesday’s meeting was the first step in a process that he hopes will result in the county seeking a federal Community Development Block Grant to kickstart any necessary renovations or improvements.

The next step will be naming a committee to discuss the ideas raised during Tuesday’s meeting and develop a consensus on the best, most appropriate ideas for the building.

&uot;We don’t want to sit in Courtland, which is about 20 miles from here, and pretend we know what is best for Ivor,&uot; Randolph said. &uot;You probably drive by that school all the time. There must be something in your mind about what it can be used for.&uot;

The county also will assess the building and its 8.25 acres to determine the condition of the property and the need for improvements. He said it is likely the building will need a new roof, at the very least.

Participants in the meeting were almost unanimous in their desire to see some sort of community center on the site, whether serving children and youth or adults and senior citizens.

Their ideas included day care centers for children and senior citizens, community fitness centers, educational and tutoring space for students and adults, a library, a recreation center and even a farmers’ market.

&uot;There are a lot of people here in the community who have had visions and have had dreams&uot; about the property, said one resident.

One dream of many in the group is that of a county parks and recreation department, an entity participant Florence Reynolds said had been in the works for almost 25 years.

Though she and others said they hoped discussion about uses for the school site could serve as a first step toward a county parks department, she also made it clear she hoped the transformation would not take another 25 years.

Randolph talked briefly about the county’s recreation task force, which is working to address such issues for Southampton’s Board of Supervisors.

He also said he hopes the process used to find a new purpose for the Ivor school will become a model for other vacant county buildings, such as the former Boykins Elementary School. His immediate focus, though, will be on Ivor Elementary, he said.