WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — Some students in Wilson County are getting ready to start the school year Monday in a temporary building.

Heather Bass setting up her classroom (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

They’re making themselves at home, while anticipating a new one.

“We’re excited for them to be here, and we’re ready to see what this year holds,” said Heather Bass, a kindergarten teacher at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Wilson County.

To prepare for Monday, she’s setting up her classroom and getting extra creative.

“We have an eyewash station in the room, and obviously we won’t need that in kindergarten. So I did turn that into a frog,” she said while laughing.

(Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

Starting this school year, the elementary school is temporarily in the former Toisnot Middle School building in Wilson.

It was one of two schools that closed after the 2021-2022 school year when the district planned to consolidate schools.

About 350 students will learn there while their current building is torn down and rebuilt.

Photo of temporary location (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

“In building planning or project planning between the Board of Commissioners, Board of Education and meetings with the Board of Education, looking for projects that need to be completed within the district, and Frederick Douglass is the one they decided on,” said Dr. Ben Williams, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services with Wilson County Schools.

Photo of building that will be rebuilt (Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

He further explained, “Various factors go into looking at things, like age of buildings and need for new construction and things like that.”

According to Wilson County Schools, the building was originally built in 1939 as Frederick Douglass High School, which taught Black students. It was open through 1969.

The district said the building was turned to Elm City Elementary School in 1970.

In 2018, the district renamed the school Frederick Douglass Elementary School, after its original namesake.

Looking ahead

Other than bus routes extending about 10 minutes, the school’s principal says not much is changing with the move.

“Just because we’re in a new building doesn’t mean anything has changed,” said Casey Wester, Principal of Frederick Douglass Elementary School. “This is still our home. A building doesn’t make Frederick Douglass home, it’s the people. We still have the same people, we have the same teachers, we have the same materials, the same students.”

(Chloe Rafferty/CBS 17)

Wester says the community is excited about what’s to come.

“I’m hoping [it will have] things like a STEM classroom,” she said when asked about the future building. “It’s very rare that new school buildings are built, so I’m just thrilled that Wilson County Schools has the opportunity to give their elementary students a new facility.”

Right now, the district is working on their vision for the new building.

Dr. Williams says the district has selected an architect and a construction manager.

He says building designs will be based off ideas from community input groups with families and staff that took place at the end of the past school year.

Wilson County Schools says the elementary school will temporarily operate out of the former middle school for the entire 2023-2024 school year, and may also extend into the 2024-2025 school year.

The district does not have a clear timeline for the construction yet, and they hope to have more information soon.

“As you complete phases of the process and begin actual construction, your timeline becomes a lot more clear,” Dr. Williams said. “We’re very excited about the process, very excited about the prospects and potential.”

“It’s exciting!” said Bass. “With being at that school building for that long and then knowing now we’re going to have something brand new, it’s exciting. And it makes this move worth it.”

Dr. Williams says the team will update the Board of Education with construction information when they know more.

The Wilson County Board of Education’s meetings are open to the public. To see when and where they will meet throughout the school year, click here.

Frederick Douglass Elementary School also held an open house Thursday night from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the temporary building, where parents were able to meet their child’s teacher, tour the building, gather bus information for the school year and more.

Principal Wester says anyone who missed the event can still access this information during the first few weeks of school and can call the front office with any specific questions.