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GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A new visual and performing arts magnet school is set to be built in east Greensboro.

The state-of-the-art school for kindergarten-5th grade, located on Randall Street, would be a first of its kind for Guilford County Schools.

It will replace the former Peeler Open and Hampton Elementary Schools damaged by a tornado in 2018.

The elementary school was like a second home for Dora Tonkins.  

“I spent a whole lot of time over there,” Tonkins said. “We spent a whole lifetime here, so we got something good coming to our community.” 

Tonkins, 80, moved to east Greensboro in 1963 and has spent more than six decades within an eyeshot of the school grounds. Her four children and four grandchildren attended Peeler Open.  

“I think they thought I was a part of Peeler ’cause every time they looked up, there’s Ms. Tonkins,” she said. 

On April 15, 2018, an EF-2 tornado came through her neighborhood. It destroyed homes and damaged the school she loved.  

“It was a little bit frightening you know,” Tonkins said. “It made you feel a little uncomfortable.”  

On Oct. 7, 2021, Greensboro police believe someone set the vacant building on fire. Crews demolished it a month later to build something new. 

Renderings for the new building were discussed by district leaders in a work session. 

“This one has been a labor of love given what this community went through with this tornado,” said Dr. Sharon Contreras, superintendent of Guilford County Schools. 

Deputy Superintendent Whitney Oakley told FOX8 that local arts organizations played an instrumental role in the design. 

“It’s designed to contribute to collaboration and innovation and to give spaces to problem solve together and then to display what they’ve created,” Oakley said.

You won’t find long hallways and square rooms in the new buildings. There were flexible classrooms and indoor and outdoor art spaces. Students can display their work in a large, open performance commons.

“We want this to be a community school,” Oakley said. “We can come see concerts and participate as a part of the school and have this seamless kind of connection between the school and the community.” 

The school bond referendum voters passed in the fall of 2020 will pay for the $33.5 million school. 

Tonkins told FOX8 the progress is promising for people in the neighborhood. 

“It seems like it’s going to be a beautiful building,” Tonkins said. “That encourages me to tell my grandchildren if they have any type of talent to put it into action so they can get over there and be a part of that” 

According to district officials, there is space for 700 students, and 350 spaces are reserved for students living in the school zone. The other 350 spaces will open to any student in the county. Parents must apply for admission. 

Oakley said construction will begin in October, and the school will open in the fall of 2024. 

This project is one of seven other school rebuilds or improvements district leaders hope to have completed by 2024.