Whittemore Elementary could be transformed into community center

Whittemore Elementary could be transformed into community center

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - For the first time in the city of Conway, officials are looking to transform the old Whittemore Elementary School into a community life learning center.

City officials presented the project to the Horry County School district since it owns the building. It used to serve as office space for the school district, but Hurricane Matthew damaged the building.

The life learning center would be available to the public and Janet Graham, one Horry County school board member who is for the project, said the city of Conway and Horry County schools have a positive partnership and always try to collaborate together. The school district doesn't have any use for the building anymore. Conway city council is stepping up and wants it to serve as an educational building with after school programs and much more.

"That's what we are looking to do and it wouldn't just be for teenagers and that group but also for parents and their grandparents who need other assistance. We would offer programs for them as well, like English as a second language, or computer skills, programs we don't currently offer in the city because we don't have a place to do it," Adam Emrick Conway City Administer stated.

"There was a whole complex out there back in the early 1900s there was a Whittemore Park high school if I am not mistaken. Beautiful old facility but most of that is gone and what's left is what you see out there now the Whittemore elementary school, and we have three city council members who actually went to that school," he said.

City officials explained Conway has reached a critical point and it believes a certain population is not being served, so the goal of the learning center is to help fix that. Emrick added, "If we are able to do this partnership with the schools we'd take this site that needs re construction, demolition and work and putting a building on a site where one already is, that's a win."

The learning center would offer programs for all ages. Things like English as a Second Language courses and computer learning skills, Emrick said.

The goal is to try and preserve the historical aspect of the building too. Emerick explained, "Our historic core of Conway doesn't end at our downtown we have historic buildings throughout the city and if we can restore one piece of that it's a good thing for everybody. There are great unique bricks  in great shape with the structure. The structure is in wonderful shape, inside is a different story, the roofs are bad the HVAC is bad some of it needs to go."

Currently city officials said there is already money in the budget to get the project started. The Community Development Block grant is in partnership with Horry County and Myrtle Beach. Emrick said the city's receive a certain allocation each year from the Housing Urban Development fund. For Conway, there is $240,000 set aside to build a community center, but that money was held over until a plan was in place..

"Council also added $270,000 in the current year's Community Development Block grant money to be able to do this project. If the partnership moves forward, Emrick added, "I think it would be a gift sale, a one dollar sale transaction, that's what we are hoping for. I think we are taking what is a liability for the school district in some ways and giving it to us to become an asset."

A formal vote to transfer ownership of the property is expected to take place the next school board meeting on January 22nd. After that the city of Conway said it looks forward to getting some groundwork done by Summer 2018.

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