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Woodlawn transfer vote divides board

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Two of the five Carroll County School Board members were reluctant to give up the closed school and its 21 acres of land.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Two protest votes cast by Carroll School Board members against transferring Woodlawn to the county supervisors nearly defeated the idea, as the school board chairman thought the land might become useful for growth in the future.
When the board members discussed the matter Oct. 8, several of them felt the idea to turn over the more than a century old facility to county officials was a “done deal.”

But Chairman Brian Spencer indicated he didn’t want to let go of the now-closed school and the 21 acres it sits on.
Due to growth patterns in the county, he expects that any future school that might be needed would probably get built somewhere in Woodlawn.
“That’s just a very hard pill to swallow,” Spencer said about transferring that plot of land.
Even before Spencer mentioned his concerns, there was a hesitancy by the school board to act on the resolution to declare Woodlawn School surplus and turn it over to the supervisors. The paperwork was required by the state of Virginia as part of the process.
When they reached that point, a long pause preceded school board member Reggie Gardner’s motion to approve the transfer.
“We’d probably like to have seen something different happen at Woodlawn than what we’ve seen happen, but because of funding that’s what we’ve got,” the Sulphur Springs representative said.
Like other schools and county officials have noted, Gardner said that the schools continue to need the fields and the gym at Woodlawn to have enough space to carry out programs, especially athletics.
School representatives gave a list of these kinds of uses for Woodlawn in a recent meeting with county officials, said Tammy Quesenberry, school board clerk.
“We’ve also given them the use of facilities requests that have been ongoing for Woodlawn,” she told the school board. “We shared as much information concerning Woodlawn that we could — utility costs, insurance cost, all the various groups that are wanting to use it.”
“What guarantee do we have they’ll let us use the facility?” Spencer asked.
Carroll Schools Superintendent Strader Blankenship said he’s received assurances from county officials that the facilities at Woodlawn would still be available to the school system.
Board member Sandy Hendrick wondered if that should be made part of the transfer agreement with the supervisors.
“I don’t think there’s any need, because, quite frankly, if they don’t allow us to use it, it puts them in a position where an auxiliary gym is absolutely necessary,” Blankenship said.
Spencer asked how much of the 21 acres the school takes up.
“I just wondered, could we give them the building and keep the land?” the chairman said. “The only reason I’m asking this is because, of all the areas having growth, it’s the Woodlawn district [that has the most].... If we’re ever to build another school or need another school, that’s where we would want to put it, and when will we ever have the land?”
There’s not space enough there for another school, Quesenberry said.
The property used to have a garbage dump, so with that kind of fill it wouldn’t be a suitable place to build, said Assistant Superintendent Mark Burnette.
When the vote came, Gardner, Hendrick and Olen Gallimore supported the transfer motion. Both Spencer and member Joey Haynes voted no.
Later in the meeting, Hendrick said that he thought the prior school board had already worked out a deal to hand Woodlawn school over to the supervisors in exchange for the Phase III improvements to the middle and high schools.
The idea to transfer the facility to the supervisors originated with the previous superintendent, Spencer said.
In the end, it might be better that way. “We can’t afford to keep up the property,” the chairman acknowledged.
“They can do something with it — we can’t do anything with it,” Gardner said. “It would be a shame to let it sit there and just fall in. That’s probably what’s going to happen if you try to hang onto it.”
Carroll County taxpayers funded that facility, Spencer noted. “It’s really the public’s building. It is the county’s building, and it’s been a great resource for the school system to be able to have had that for 100 years. I voted against the resolution just because I hate to let it go, couldn’t let it go”
Hendrick expressed the idea that he thought the vote was just a formality. If one more school board member had voted against the transfer, there would have been a different outcome, he noted.