Looking Back: Status of Franklin city school buildings

Published 10:53 am Saturday, August 10, 2013

EDITORS NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker

by Clyde Parker

Among the many things the Franklin City Council dealt with at their meeting on Monday was a report prepared by School Superintendent Dr. Edward Brickell on the status and future use of school buildings located in the City of Franklin.

Last month, the City School Board asked for a $1.5 million bond issue to build new schools. In response, City Council asked for more details on how the money would be spent.

At Monday’s meeting, Brickell referenced his written report which focused on the condition of City school property. “Franklin is using buildings that are more than 40 years old and have not received maximum maintenance,” he said.

Franklin High School was built in 1922, and, according to a recent engineering survey, it is still a sound structure. Franklin Elementary School, built in 1905, is also considered a solid structure.

“Nevertheless,” said Brickell, “those buildings are becoming inadequate for today’s instructional needs.” For the time being, though, Brickell recommends the continued use of Franklin High School and Franklin Elementary School. “But, those buildings need to have more aggressive upkeep and day-to-day maintenance,” he emphasized.

Of particular concern, now, are the Hayden schools. Hayden High School, built in the early 1950s, is still a solid structure and is well worth retaining and upgrading to meet current needs. Hayden Elementary School, a much older building, needs extensive work but is worth the investment. Although those structures are physically located in the City of Franklin, they are now owned by the Southampton County School System. And, Southampton County Negro students who live in the Franklin District of Southampton County starting with the 1963-1964 school year, will attend school there.

Negro students residing in the City of Franklin will also attend Hayden schools; but, since the County owns Hayden, the City will pay tuitions to the County for those attending.

All of this is in accordance with an agreement that was reached by Southampton and Franklin in February of 1963.

However, now, a majority on the Franklin School Board, unexpectedly, have other thoughts. They have offered to buy the Hayden school property. If a purchase agreement with Southampton cannot be reached, the Franklin School Board is proposing that a new high school and a new elementary school be built for Negro students residing in the City of Franklin.

Southampton County is asking $600,000 for the Hayden properties. Franklin is offering $400,000. Both jurisdictions, until recently, have been holding to their price. Now, within the past week, the County School Board has indicated that they might be receptive to another offer from the City.

If Southampton will accept Franklin’s $400,000 offer for the schools, Franklin will, for the foreseeable future, abandon its move to build new schools.

Instead of building new schools, quite a number of people, including many citizens, most councilmen and some school board members, want to have the City purchase the Hayden buildings and upgrade them for City Negro students.

Some people are wondering what happened to the February 1963 agreement between Southampton and Franklin. Supposedly, that agreement was the final word and ended the long drawn-out school negotiations between the two jurisdictions.

Riverview High School, near Courtland, is currently being enlarged and upgraded and will be considered a consolidated central high school for County Negro students, including those who reside in the Franklin District of Southampton County.

Southampton County is also considering construction of a new Negro elementary school somewhere between Courtland and Franklin.

In a very unusual public opinion, John M. Camp, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Southampton County, in a letter to the Editor of The Tidewater News, as a private citizen, is advocating the purchase by Franklin of the Hayden properties instead of spending money for new schools. And, he is encouraging Southampton to continue with its enlargement and upgrading of Riverview High School.

“It seems to me to be very unwise, from a financial standpoint, for the City to build new schools at this time,” Camp said. “The City would have to buy land and put up new buildings and buy new equipment,” he added.

“I am writing this because of my concern for the welfare of the schools in the County and the City,” Camp said. “I am writing as a private citizen, not as a member of the Southampton County Board of Supervisors.”

Incidentally, although Camp represents the citizens of the Franklin DISTRICT of Southampton County, he is a resident of the CITY of Franklin.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is cpjeep99@yahoo.com.