Residents of the Francisco community, and the county school board, will have to wait a while longer to find out the fate of the former Francisco Elementary School.
On Monday, the County Board of Commissioners decided to table for a month an offer from the school board to turn the property over to the county so they could have time to explore all of the impacts a transfer could have and identify potential uses for the property if the county does take ownership.
“I am personally going to need some time to do due diligence on this property and see if it can be used for something that would benefit Stokes County people,” said Commissioner Ernest Lankford. “My recommendation is we table it until we can get our due diligence done.”
Commissioner Jimmy Walker asked the board to set a time table for revisiting the issue instead of tabling it indefinitely.
“I could go maybe for a meeting a month from now to revisit it,” he said.
Chair Ronda Jones said she hoped the county could come up with a reasonable use for the property, but agreed the county needed to do due diligence before making a decision.
“I am concerned about the fiscal impact this would have on the county if we take it overnight,” she said. “I am not saying we should not do this, but we need to look at this in an unemotional manner. Everyone wants it done yesterday, but we can’t do everything that fast.”
Commissioner Leon Inman commended the county school board for doing what they could to keep the school open, but noted that he agreed they had reached a point where that was no longer feasible.
“It has always been my feeling that that school has been the hub of that community for 60 years and it should have the opportunity to remain the hub of the Francisco community,” he said. “Bill Hart and I have brainstormed some things it could be used for. There is a mental health need in that community. Could CenterPoint use part of that facility to have a provider int he area? Pioneer Hospital built a center out in Walnut Cove, wouldn’t it be awesome if they would consider a satellite office in the Francisco community. Forsyth Tech has traditionally taught class throughout the county. Is it possible to do a public private partnership?”
The decision to take more time to decide whether or not to accept the property could cause headaches for the county school system, which has gotten several requests from the community to use the property for events and has been notified by their insurance company that they should remove the playground equipment and keep the building locked at all times.
Last week the board agreed to hold off on making any of those decisions until they found out if the county would be taking the property.
School Board Member Becky Boles noted that if the county chose to take the property it may want to keep the playground equipment on site.
“We are sitting here talking about tearing out equipment that can’t be put back in and we have no idea if that is even necessary,” she said.
“We can’t decide on anything until we know who is going to own it,” agreed School Board Chair Sonya Cox.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.