Groundbreaking for new high school could start healing in Davie Co. over divisive issue

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(Lauren Carroll/Journal) Orange balloons are released at the Davie County High School Groundbreaking Ceremony Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

MOCKSVILLE, N.C. — The word “historic” kept popping during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Davie County High School last week on Farmington Road, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. 

And with good reason.

It’s not every day that dirt is moved for a new high school in the county. Indeed, such an event hasn’t occurred in nearly 60 years.

“Look around,” school board member Clint Junker told a crowd of a few hundred people standing in what was once an overgrown field of weeds. “It’s phenomenal to take this in.”

The groundbreaking took place nearly 4½ months after county voters approved a $54.5 million bond issue that will pay for most of the school. Bond referendums for a second high school were overwhelmingly rejected by voters twice in the last 12 years.

Last May’s hotly contested referendum — for one high school to replace the current facility in Mocksville that is more than 60 years old — passed by a margin of 54 to 46 percent.

The issue was a divisive one, pitting friends and neighbors against one another. A few speakers at the ceremonies referenced the past tension, saying it was time for people to put those feelings to rest and move forward.

Shane Nixon, the pastor at First Baptist Church of Mocksville, opened with a prayer that called for unity where there was once division and calm where there was once anxiety.

Though most groundbreaking ceremonies emit a festive air, this one came trimmed with several added touches of pageantry, including a balloon release, the high school’s marching band, cheerleaders, an American flag draped from a piece of machinery and a fire truck. Kids ran around in homemade shirts that read “Class of 2027;” past school board members, principals and superintendents were introduced; Assistant Superintendent Jeff Wallace unveiled a street sign that read “War Eagle Drive;” and nearly everything was swathed in orange.

“I’m elated to see this day come,” Superintendent Darrin Hartness said. “You have paved the way for a much better future.”

School board member Barbara Owens gripped a balloon as she addressed the crowd. “I am so excited I could explode.” She got emotional as she read a poem dedicated to the area’s schoolchildren.

The school is expected to open in the fall of 2017. Eastern Structures of Mocksville is doing the rough grading, a $2.6 million project that should be finished in December.

Sheila Smith was among the backers of the bond who came out to the groundbreaking.

“This is a historical day in Davie County,” she said. “I’m excited it’s finally here. It’s long overdue. Our kids are our future and it’s important we provide them with all the opportunities for them to be successful. To have a 21st-century school, this is something to be proud of.”

Several high school students attended the ceremony, including sophomore Claire Myers. Though she will never attend the new school, she said she is excited about what it will add to the county.

“Davie is a really good school with great teachers, and seeing them in a new environment will be awesome.”