05/14/12 — Dillard Academy adds new classrooms

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Dillard Academy adds new classrooms

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 14, 2012 1:46 PM

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Hilda Hicks gives her grandson Xavier Baptiste, a fourth-grader at Dillard Academy, a big hug during the dedication of the new education annex at the school. The Hilda Hicks Annex Building opened in February and has eight classrooms.

Dillard Academy, the county's sole charter school, has spent nearly a decade campaigning and fundraising for additional classroom space.

On Friday, school personnel, supporters and students dedicated the new annex building in the name of the superintendent and founder of the school, Hilda Hicks.

Ms. Hicks has long had a vision to find additional space at the school, which is located at the base of Elm Street across from School Street Elementary School. It was the original Dillard High School, which later moved to Devereaux Street.

Dillard Academy started in 1998 with 65 students in grades K-2. It currently serves pre-K to fourth grade and has 176 students.

"Ms. Hicks has been saving up local money that we have gotten over the years until we got an amount that we could purchase a new building ... understanding that expansion of the facilities would be necessary for the growth of the school as students increasingly have expressed their interest in attending the school," said Brian Smith, principal.

Patience paid off earlier this year when officials learned of a modular unit that was available.

"I think that was part of another charter school. I believe it was around the Burlington area," Smith said.

What is now Hicks Annex Building, an 80-by-108-foot building, cost nearly $90,000 and was transported to Goldsboro in August.

It needed a lot of work, Smith said.

"We have been working on it to make sure we got all the plumbing, the city regulations, bathrooms, plumbing, electricity," he said. "We put concrete and mortar and brick all the way around, raised it up high enough that it wouldn't be in a flood plain any more."

Students and staff moved into the building -- which features eight classrooms, two restrooms and assorted storage areas -- in February.

One casualty of the move was the playground, which hopefully will be relocated once funds are available, the principal said.

Smith said that the trade-off equates to more potential for growth at the school.

"We will eventually be able to expand," he said. "We have had to turn away students at times."

Opening the annex behind the existing building has made "a world of difference," he added.

"We have got sinks in every room, cabinets in every room, brand new bookshelves, brand new tables, brand new chairs," he said. "We did that with our school improvement grant ($2.1 million in federal money)."

The grant was not applied to the purchase of the modular building, he pointed out, but came in time to assist with some related expenses.

"It was spent for buying brand new textbooks for our school, tables, chairs, technology," Smith said. "The grant goes for three years so we have not spent it all. We are able to add two teachers this year, two next year, and the last year will be to just sustain (it)."

Freeing up space in the main school building has also allowed the school to expand in other ways, the principal said.

Not only were some teachers able to relocate from "working out of a closet," but the building will be better utilized, he said.

"We actually added a library from existing stuff," he said. "The older main building will be used as a future area to place students that enroll at Dillard Academy.

"The expansion has also helped bring about a more spacious area in which to learn and do group work in the unoccupied area of the main building."