Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
When students and faculty arrive at the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in the coming week, they will see more than $703,000 in capital improvements.
“I cannot wait until the staff comes back to see it. The students are going to be like ‘Whoa!’” said Michele Handley, the school’s director.
Handley, who’s led the school since March 2018, said funds for the improvements came from lapsed salary money and budget processes that had not been done correctly or terminated correctly that kept money encumbered for projects and uses that had either been paid out or were no longer in existence.
“It showed us as not having money available that we actually had available,” Handley said.
In January, Handley went to department supervisors asking for needs for all aspects of the school and began a process of working down the lists.
The parking lot has been resealed and re-striped.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems across the campus have been repaired.
The roof on the Massey Activity Center, which houses the school auditorium and student center, was replaced.
“I got new couches, loveseats and chairs for the living rooms, all new mattresses, new rugs and computer tables in the dorms and new guest seating in the Massey areas,” Handley said.
The Hornet’s Nest, which had been a student canteen and grill, has been out of service for years in part because of the decline in student population and out-of-date equipment.
“We haven’t been using it because of the changes on campus but mainly because the equipment was old and failing and difficult to use, so I got a new refrigerator, a new range and a new icemaker in there,” Handley said.
Handley has plans to get the Hornet’s Nest up and running for the students and staff in the future.
Handley said the school spent about $10,000 on plumbing to repair leaky faucets and aging infrastructure across the campus.
“We did some pressure washing on parts of the campus. The roof of Eagles Hall used to be solid black. Now you can see that it’s white,” Handley said.
The cafeteria received a new steamer to produce healthier meals.
“We bought a ton of stuff for the student health center, a med cart, new beds for the students when they are sick, lots of supplies,” Handley said. “We didn’t have digital thermometers.”
The school bought a pottery kiln, a throwing wheel and all the pottery supplies for its expanding art program.
A Genie lift was purchased to maintenance workers could do basic work like replacing bulbs on security lighting.
IN THE WORKS
Several projects are planned at the school to begin with state capital improvement funding.
“We have fire alarm upgrades that have been funded for a couple of years that haven’t been done,” Handley said. “Four buildings remain. Those are all going out to bid this month. We are looking at work in October to have those done. We have a window replacement project for McAdams Hall to replace all of the windows on the McAdams Hall. That is to be bid Aug. 20.”
“The interior security project, which was upgrading the lines and the TVs to be able to run electronic mass communication, that is set to be completed by up the end of next month, so that is going well and on schedule,” Handley said.
The school got a new 24-by-40-foot metal shelter in the back to store landscaping equipment.
“The maintenance crew had little trucks and they are all from the ‘90s and in disrepair, costing a lot of money which had to be tagged as a vehicle and insured as a vehicle, so we are going to surplussing those,” Handley said.
To replace them, the school bought six golf carts for the maintenance workers to use around campus.
“They are also electric, so we have gone green,” Handley said. The vehicles will be stored in the new shelter.
For years, there was not a satisfactory place to maintain and repair the school’s vehicle fleet.
“We’ve got 11 mini-buses, one of the larger activity buses, two 15-passenger buses, two state fleet vehicles that are minivans, a driver’s ed vehicle and a police vehicle,” Handley said.
The school needed a place to complete internal maintenance on buses and vehicles and to house tools and equipment, so it’s getting a new freestanding shop that will replace one that frequently floods during heavy rain.
The new 40-by-60-foot maintenance shop, to open for bids Aug. 20, will have one bay that can accommodate a bus and a lift that can raise a bus.
A perimeter security fence to encircle the campus was moving along. Work was supposed to begin in August, but it’s been delayed.
“We hit a snag with the guard booth,” Handley said. “The prefabricated buildings don’t match the footprint on the plans. They have to do some engineering work to either figure out how to get one of the prefabricated buildings to work or to fabricate another building to go there.”
“We are going to do an external painting job, so we bought supplies to sandblast all the exterior railing and the equipment needed to repaint those,” Handley said.
A lot of things across the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf campus don’t match.
“In the past, they have relied on donations for paint, so there is a variety of color,” Handley said.
Handley said she wants to see continuity across campus with the paint and furniture matching the school’s green and yellow colors.
Some 29 classrooms in two buildings and all the classroom hallways are being painted a bright cream color.
“We’re not surrounded with our school colors, so that is something that is guiding my choices,” Handley said. “The technical color for the paint vendor is Country Club Green, but it is our green. The cream color, when the green sets up next to it, it has just the slightest yellow tint.”
“We chose a very neutral kind of cream color for the walls, even though it is just kind of a white, it’s beautiful. It brightens up everything and feels so fresh,” Handley said.
Handley had originally planned to also paint the dorm rooms and halls, but that will have to wait.
“I still think they are going to be very excited about what they are coming back to,” Handley said.
Longtime ENCSD employee Donna Jones of Wilson agreed. Jones has been helping move new mattresses and furniture into the dorms this summer.
“It’s awesome,”Jones said. “It looks wonderful. They are going to be shocked and be happy. It has been a long time since this school has been painted. I’ve been working here 29 years. It has been a long time since I have seen this campus look like this. I’m happy.”
The school was established in Wilson in 1964.