Usually, when the county buys a piece of property, the commissioners have a pretty good idea of how they plan to use it.
However, on Thursday, Oct. 19, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners went into closed session and made the decision to purchase a building from the school system with no determinate plans.
The board came out of closed session and voted publicly to purchase the old Erwin Montessori School on East Bessemer Avenue, but Guilford County Commissioner Frankie Jones, who made the motion, said after the meeting that there were no hard and fast plans yet as to how the county would use the building.
The board has been considering buying the old school for a long time but on October 19 they voted to direct staff to enter into a contract to purchase the school and the surrounding nine acres for a price not to exceed $100,000.
The school – along with two other schools in the city – was badly damaged in 2018 by a tornado, and it has been abandoned ever since.
Jones said the county will now take feedback as to what would be the highest and best use of the old school.
“There’s engagement with the community, and so we’re getting feedback,” he said.
Jones did say that it would not be a homeless shelter and he hinted that it could end up as a sort of “community center” or a “work force development center.”
Since the building is owned by Guilford County Schools, the Board of Commissioners – upon the school system’s decision to sell the property – has first right of refusal before the school system can sell that property to anyone else.
The county commissioners usually have no interest in purchasing old schools or related properties. However, in this case, they decided that they could indeed make use of it – even if they still aren’t quite sure how.
After the tornado hit the school five years ago, the building was deemed unsafe for occupancy. The Guilford County Board of Education announced last year that it intended to put the tornado damaged school up for sale. Earlier this year the Board of Commissioners considered fixing it up to use as a homeless shelter or a drug rehab center, however those plans now look dead in the water.