Groundbreaking ceremony held for gym, arts center

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School officials, students and community members today celebrated the beginning of construction on a new performing arts center and a new competition gymnasium at Whale Branch Early College High School.

Speakers included Board of Education Chair Earl Campbell and Beaufort County Councilman Gerald Dawson, who represent parents and community members in the high school’s attendance zone.

“We’re very excited,” said Principal Mona Lise Dickson.  “This is a great day for the entire community because all of our students – not just high school students but also elementary and middle school students – will benefit from these new facilities.”

Since Whale Branch Early College High opened in 2011, its four basketball teams have practiced and played their interscholastic games in one small gymnasium, leading to practices that lasted well into the night.  Wrestling matches were also held in that gym, leading to shortened or cancelled basketball practices. Today Whale Branch is the only high school in Beaufort County that doesn’t have a competition and a practice gym.

Whale Branch also is the only district high school that does not have a performing arts-style auditorium for student performances and classes.  Parents and community supporters had urged the district to build the addition since the high school opened six years ago.

Sophomore Xavier Pierce, who made several appearances at Board of Education meetings to advocate for the new facilities, was particularly excited at today’s ceremony.

“It took a whole community coming together to make this happen,” Pierce said.  “The outcome of this will be great.”

Superintendent Jeff Moss stressed the long-term positive impact of the additions.

“What will be built here will be a brick-and-mortar building,” Moss said.  “But what will ultimately make it successful will be the students and educators who work here
every day.”

District officials said their goal is to open the new competition gymnasium before the end of the 2018 basketball season and its accompanying playoffs.  They hope to open the performing arts center in spring 2019.

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