The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education has spent $350,000 to purchase three full tracts and one partial tract in the east Winston-Salem area, according to a county Register of Deeds filing Wednesday.
It’s the latest step on a quest to build a new Ashley Elementary School, with likely several more years to go.
Construction of a new Ashley Elementary, to replace the current school on Bowen Boulevard, has not been approved.
The school district has said it does not currently have a way to pay for the new school, which is expected to have a 9-acre campus and cost up to $30 million. The school will have a capacity of 600 students.
The transaction involves: all of a vacant 0.4-acre tract at 1803 N. Liberty St.; all of a 0.36-acre tract at 1811 N. Liberty St. that contains a parking lot; a vacant tract of an unspecified size at 951 New Hope Lane; and part of a 4.14-acre tract at 1120 Burke Village Lane that contains 47,780 square feet of building space.
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The seller of all four properties is Forsyth Economic Ventures Inc., an affiliate of the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem.
WS/FCS spokesman Brent Campbell said Thursday that the purchased land is for the new Ashley Elementary.
The school district bought several acres of surplus property near Fairview Park from the city of Winston-Salem in 2020. The school district said in June it was in the process of buying additional property for the school’s proposed new campus, according to Darrell Walker, WS/FCS’ assistant superintendent of operations.
The other purchased properties are listed as: 912 and 918 Bethlehem Lane; and 913, 917, 919, 939, 945 New Hope Lane.
Walker said Thursday that there are at least four more parcels that the school board is attempting to buy for the Ashley Elementary campus. He said those parcels are in the condemnation part of the foreclosure process.
“We’re working with the parties involved with the goal of closing things out in January,” Walker said.
In June, a school board committee approved an $862,000 contract for a local architectural firm to design a new Ashley Elementary.
Walter Robbs Architecture will design the school with input from the staff and community. Community input is being gathered, according to Superintendent Tricia McManus.
Walker said securing all of the parcels for the proposed new school is pivotal so that the architectural firm “can have the lay of the land” for the campus. He said the firm is expected to provide the final design within 10 to 12 months.
In 2016, voters approved paying for the design of a new Ashley Elementary as one of the projects in the $350 million bond referendum.
Ashley Elementary supporters were critical of the board’s decision not to include construction of a new school in the 2016 bond referendum.
The school district is discussing with the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners about a possible smaller-scale bond referendum in November 2024.
If the referendum proposal is approved, McManus said a new Ashley Elementary will be one of several projects that will be considered for inclusion on the bond list.
Ashley Elementary has been in the spotlight for some time because of concerns over indoor air quality at the school. The school board decided in 2019 to put in a new HVAC system as a temporary solution at the existing school.
In April 2020, HAWS gained a $30 million revitalization grant designed to bring improvements to an area in east Winston-Salem, stretching from 25th Street to the Innovation Quarter downtown.
It was the fourth time that HAWS had sought the Choice Neighborhoods grant for the area. The grant was announced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Choice Neighborhoods is a grant program that takes a comprehensive approach to neighborhood revitalization by emphasizing education, health and employment in addition to housing.
A key part of the plan will be the replacement of 244 apartments in the aging Cleveland Avenue Homes public housing project with 406 new mixed-income units.
The transformation area is bounded on the west by Patterson Avenue and extends to the east over U.S. 52 to an irregular eastern boundary that follows parts of Jackson Avenue in the northeast, narrowing to File Street and Cleveland Avenue in the vicinity of Third Street.
The public housing residents in the area also will be supported with educational opportunities, employment programs and a network of medical providers.
Walker said the school system still is determining what community and public-health elements it could provide at the new Ashley Elementary.
Katie Sonnen-Lee, a board member for Action4Equity, an organization that grew out of community concern over Ashley, said in June that people in the community want a school that will serve the “whole child, the whole community,” with services that could provide public health and nutrition.
“Let’s create something innovative in a community that needs it most,” Sonnen-Lee said.
Journal reporters Lisa O’Donnell and Wesley Young contributed to this article.
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