STOKES COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Old schools, rising repair costs and declining enrollment are forcing Stokes County to make tough decisions about consolidating schools.
A total of four schools are listed on the potential chopping block. Each community is fighting for their school to stay, but in Walnut Cove, former students are putting out a call to action.
They say it’s because of the history that is there. The London School served as the only Black high school in Stokes County during segregation. It continued to educate students for decades after the school was integrated.
Some former students say keeping this school as a school is the only way to keep that history alive.
“We people of color, Black people. We knew and know today the power of education and how it can change not only one life but generations,” Dr. Dana Dalton said.
She went to London School when it served students in grades five through eight.
She started a few years after the school was integrated with her classmate Leslie Bray Brewer.
“It was a time that I finally became aware that there were all sorts of different people in our town, and we could come together and love each other, and it was a beautiful time at London School,” Brewer said.
Now, as adults and educators, the pair still have special memories of sports, youth rallies and community gatherings at the school.
“This was a place where people could come together in unity regardless of race, creed, culture,” Brewer said.
This isn’t the first time the school’s future has been in jeopardy. It was scheduled to close in 1968, but a march through Walnut Cove saved the school by integrating it.
“It overcame and was victorious in all the struggles that it had to endure,” Dalton said.
The school and all the happenings inside have left a lasting impact on the people and the building itself.
“Some of our older facilities that have great history also have facility issues … While we are trying to honor the past, we are also trying to take care of the present,” said Dr. Brad Rice, the Stokes County Schools superintendent.
Rice says the district conducted a population study, a facilities study and an efficiency study to determine the best solutions. The school board has been discussing options for months, but nothing has been decided.
“I understand that all of this creates turmoil with families, with teachers, with community … The sooner we can make the right decision, put that to bed and move on … we will all be in a better place,” Rice said.
The school board will be discussing this at their work session on Tuesday but will not take any action until they have a plan and host a public hearing. That could happen in the coming weeks.