GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Watching crews rip away brick and metal sheeting, violin teacher Marta Richardson points to the spot where Peeler Elementary School’s music room stood.
“It was lovely, and it was sweet,” she said.
Now a teacher at Bluford Peeler STEAM Academy, Richardson said she’s looking forward to a new chapter for families in east Greensboro surrounding the school.
“It is going to be absolutely magnificent,” she said.
Crews began demolishing the abandoned school Friday. Peeler was damaged in a 2018 EF-2 tornado.
Peeler was originally scheduled to be demolished sometime next year, but it caught on fire last month, which sped up the timeline.
“It’s a bit upsetting, I spent all these years, but I’m glad at least something’s happening because at least some other students can come, and they can have the same memories I had,” said Athena Ward, now a 10th grader at Weaver Academy.
Ward began her music career at Peeler and graduated from the school in 2016.
“I learned how to read a staff, and play with the great-sounding recorder like every fourth and fifth grader does,” she recalled.
“You can’t help but be emotional about a place you taught at for almost 20 years, poured your heart into, and loved your students and see amazing things happen in the building,” Richardson said.
Guilford County Schools Chief Operating Officer Michelle Reed said the future Hampton Peeler arts school will take about 700 K-fifth grade students.
“It’s going to be a magnet school, anyone can come here, it’s going to be embedded within the Peeler neighborhood so we are expecting that the community will embrace the school, and actually have children from the community come here, but also outreach other communities so they will come into this neighborhood and see if vibrant neighborhood starting to really thrive,” she said Friday.
“You can explore, you know if you want to draw, you wish to dance, if it’s something you want to do in the future you can do something really good with those skills,” Ward said.
District officials hope the school will serve as a catalyst for growth in east Greensboro with play gardens and other spaces for the community.
The demolition is part of a $300 million bond referendum approved by voters last year. The school itself will cost about $33 million.
The actual building is slated to open in 2024.