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WPA-sponsored gyms get new lease on life

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Posted: Friday, October 10, 2014 10:45 am

NEWPORT — Two county school gyms built with federal funds during the Depression are getting some much-needed repairs.

Work began Monday on the Newport Elementary School gym, and crews will begin next week on the gym at Atlantic School for a total of $144,874 funded through the school system’s capital budget this fiscal year.

Both gyms, built between 1935-37, will get new roofs and windows. Repairs to facias and soffits, ceiling repairs because of water damage, repairs to gym floors, painting and other work are planned.

Estimated cost for gym repairs at Atlantic is $83,574, with the cost at Newport Elementary is about $61,300.

Judson Walton, director of plant operations for the school system, said Tuesday all work should be finished in about 60 days. He explained the repair cost was higher at Atlantic because there was more water damage to the gym floor.

Primus Contracting Inc. of Morehead City is the general contractor for both gyms. The roofing subcontractor for both gyms is F&R Construction of Morehead City, which had a crew on top of the Newport gym this week.

Mr. Walton said each gym is important to that community. They’re used for community functions, as well as school events.

“Both gyms were built with WPA (Works Progress Administration) funds in the 1930s and have historic significance,” he said. “We kept hearing from the Newport Consolidated group (School Alumni Association) and parent advisory councils at both schools to save their gyms.”

Mr. Walton said the gyms were nearly identical to each other because the WPA, which provided work to citizens during the Great Depression era, used the same schematics for both gyms.

“They built Atlantic, then took the schematics to Newport and built their gym,” he said.

Mr. Walton added that the gym at Atlantic is also important because it serves as an emergency shelter during major weather events.

“It’s one of the highest points in that area,” he said.

Mr. Walton said the school system checked into the cost to replace the gyms with new buildings. The cost for the two gyms would have totaled about $750,000.

Newport Elementary School parent Katie Stevens, who also attended the school as a student, said she was glad to see her community’s gym repaired.

“I love this building. It has a lot of memories in it,” she said. “I’m glad they aren’t tearing it down, but decided to fix it up.”

Principals at both schools said they’re excited to see work begin.

Newport Elementary School principal Richard Paylor said, “There’s a lot of history in this Newport Elementary School gym. We are very grateful that it is being repaired to preserve that history, and to make it more attractive on our campus. This work has been a long time coming. Staff, students, parents and community members are all excited that it has begun.”

Atlantic School principal Catherine Tahaney, said, “The Atlantic gym remains a symbol of community pride and regularly rekindles memories of victorious county and state-wide championships.

“The gym was built from 1935 to 1937, and is still used daily by all Atlantic School students in grades pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in addition to members of the Down East community.”

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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