On June 14, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the $26.7 million project to renovate Carroll County High School and Carroll County Intermediate School, contingent upon being able to secure USDA-Rural Development funds and Build America Bonds. Phase III renovations are slated to add a 9th grade wing to the existing high school, while Carroll County Intermediate will be renovated to house the county’s sixth to eighth graders. Those renovations would shut down Woodlawn School, a school with a central structure built in 1908. Carroll County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Greg Smith estimated that the school would be closed to students 18 to 24 months after the contract is awarded.
Later in the meeting, Supervisor Sam Dickson noted that Woodlawn School would come back to the county after its closure. He also stated a desire to see Woodlawn School to be used as an office for the recreation department, and/or as a possible place for more recreation department ball fields, or even as a water park.
“Those were ideas I had in my mind because I knew some people would be upset with Woodlawn School closing. Any time a school closes it’s not good for the community,” Dickson said. “In my mind, we don’t want to let that school become an abandoned building and not be used, so one idea is that the rec department could move over there with their offices and then you could have a gym, which the rec department has never had before. That is a big plus.”
While some of the older parts of Woodlawn School will most likely need to be torn down, Dickson hoped that the existing cafeteria and library could be salvaged and used as a community center as well.
“We’ll need to do a study and that would all depend on the investigation of the building and the planning to go along with that. But then the local organizations could use it for their meals and inside flea markets and different thing like they’ve always used it for,” Dickson said. “It could be open for them and the rec department, too. Who is against the point of having a place like a YMCA where kids could come and play ping pong or whatever they desire to do? There are a lot of ideas there.”
Dickson said part of the study would be to see if the land at Woodlawn School could be used for more than one type of athletic field.
“I’m not all that familiar with the exact boundaries of the land if it could be used as a combination soccer, baseball, and softball field, and of course football could be used in winter,” he said. “But we need to determine what could be used there. Also on the back of the mind, we want to get a pool back and I would rather have something more than just pool. If it’s not really suitable for a ball field, maybe we need to make it as a type of water park.”
Dickson is in favor of a study of land to see what is available and to determine the needs of the county. Regardless, he thinks Carroll is in desperate need of an upgrade to its recreation facility. One thing that will help in that regard is the new baseball complex that is slated to be built at CCHS. The hope is to build two ball fields back-to-back, with a press box in between, that could be shared by the high school’s athletic teams during the spring sports season and by the rec department during the summer. That may not be feasible, however, depending on the landscape of the proposed ball fields.
“We desperately need to have more fields and more things available to the recreation department. That is one thing with the renovation of high school, we’ve asked for two baseball fields to be put on top,” Dickson said. “We are thinking about flipping the one field around and butting another against it. That will all depend on how much rock we hit. But it would be used by the rec department and high school.”
Sulphur Springs District Supervisor David Hutchins believes such a complex would benefit the county’s citizens. In particular, he’d like to see a pair of lighted ball fields, something the high school baseball and softball teams have never had. During the summer, that would also help Carroll County host AAU tournaments and bring in teams from outside the area. Other games could possibly be held at Woodlawn and the existing fields at the current rec department.
“If at all possible we would like to get a practice field. They’re supposed to be back-to-back right there with the booth, so you could have two games going if we could ever attract a tournament. I would like to have them both lighted if possible, and it would be a joint venture with the school and the rec department,” Hutchins said. “That’s my goal. It may not happen if they hit a lot of hard rock, but I feel like the citizens should get something out of this, and the rec department should, too.”
Another thought in keeping Woodlawn School open to the public is the fact that it was one of 11 new historical highway markers in Virginia approved by the Department of Historic Resources about five months ago. A graduate of Fries High School, which was closed in recent years, Dickson knows all too well what it’s like to see a central point of the community shut down.
“We don’t want that building to be left standing there. You don’t quit learning because you get out of school. Us older people still need to get together and learn something,” Dickson said. “There would have to be a lot of investigation and planning before anything could be done for sure. But now that this (Phase III) is going, we can start looking and planning and we have more time to find out what options we do have. I think we need community input to see what they would like to have, and too the needs of the county.”