School leaders, residents talk about Princeville Elementary School’s future

PRINCEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — On Monday, the Edgecombe County School Board discussed the future of Princeville Elementary School, after the school has been empty for five months.

The school was forced to close back in October 2016 after Hurricane Matthew flooded the building.

“I want everyone to go home and be the community we were before the storm,” said Deena Leonard.

Leonard’s daughter went to Princeville Elementary School.

She says when the storm hit, her family lost everything.

They were forced to live in shelters and hotels for months until they finally found a place in Rocky Mount.

But it’s not home. And the move has been especially hard for her daughter.

“She has to get on the bus 6:15 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 5:45 p.m.,” said Leonard.

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Leonard’s daughter still attends Princeville Elementary School, but at a temporary location at the Edgecombe County School District-owned Bridgers Building.

From Rocky Mount, it’s a much longer drive than it used to be for the Leonards. But they aren’t the only family going through this.

“Five months later we have 110 kids still living in hotels, in five surrounding counties,” said Edgecombe County Schools Superintendent John Farrelly.

Farrelly says because of the displaced students, it’s cost the district $300,000 out of the school’s budget to bus them back and forth from school.

He says with people packing up and leaving Princeville for good, the district has not been able to make a decision on what to do with the elementary school.

“We want to rebuild the school. We need a decent number of kids to attend the school for us to recommend that it’s viable and an option,” said Farrelly.

He says with the FEMA buy-out deadline getting pushed back, they haven’t been able to gauge that number.

So now, the district plans to get its own answers.

Next Thursday, a meeting will be held to get a better idea of what parents want the Edgecombe County School system to do with Princeville Elementary.

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