Fleetwood Community Center Board Chair Florence Hernandez told everyone gathered in the Fleetwood auditorium to only spend 10 minutes dreaming.
Community and board members gathered in Fleetwood last Sunday to share their visions for a future restored building and ideas on how to achieve it.
At Sunday’s community meeting, Hernandez asked the small crowd to reflect on posters hung around the room labeled with various functions and possible directions: education, recreation, historic preservation, events and partnerships.
Following the event, members of the FCC Board of Directors presented each poster. Anne Gentry represented education – among the community ideas she presented were art, fitness and language classes for children and adults; a tractor safety day; and pre-university education programs.
“We have the classrooms. We have the space available,” Gentry said.
The auditorium and much of the Fleetwood School building remain unchanged since it closed as a school in 1995 and reopened as a community center. According to the Fleetwood Community Center website, the two-and-a-half-story brick building was built along Virginia 151 in Roseland in 1934. Its 14 classrooms, library, music room, office, kitchen and its auditorium served students in grades one through 11. until Nelson County High School was built in 1955 and Fleetwood served grades one through seven. Fleetwood ceased operations as a school in 1995 when Tye River Elementary became the new elementary school for students in Fleetwood.
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Council secretary Bonnie Stevens said the doors leading from the auditorium led to the classrooms. She added that the ceiling tiles, which already hang above the large space, are not original. They hide an even higher and larger ceiling with hanging lights. That Sunday, board members sat in front of a stage still adorned with a thick velvet curtain bearing the large yellow letters “FES” for Fleetwood Elementary School.
Stevens represented the recreation poster. She listed the group’s suggestions: new tennis courts, cycling events, an archery program and a buoyancy event.
Hernandez said this year’s FCC Spring Walk, held April 22-24, was the most successful yet.
“The best part was the collaboration,” said Hernandez, ten local stores and restaurants provided food for the more than 100 runners who came to camp. Volunteers cleared the 50 miles of trails and served food and drinks. Nelson County elementary, middle and high school students sold raffle tickets and helped serve meals. Roberts’ Mill Works and Hill Hardware sponsored three newly installed manure pits with wheelbarrows and pitchforks for use over the weekend and the Blue Ridge Caballeros 4-H Club sold bags of reused feed bags.
She said FCC raised more than $12,000 through the event. With a Nelson County Board of Supervisors grant game underway, “last weekend was a $25,000 weekend,” Hernandez said.
At the meeting, Hernandez presented “as is” floor plans generated by Mark Smith of Architectural Partners and Kevin Hooper of Jamerson-Lewis Construction, both of whom donated their time to map the space. She said Smith discussed removing the new additions at the back of the school, which currently face Virginia 151, in an effort to return the building to its original construction. Nancy Brockman, a board member, said the two new wings, containing the school’s classrooms and kitchen, have been part of the school since at least the 1950s.
Hernandez said she wanted to get community feedback “before changing the Fleetwood I grew up with.”
Hernandez said the main purpose of the meeting was to create a planning steering committee, but additional efforts on mold, lead and asbestos are underway.
Board member Dale Rogers shared the group’s event ideas: a pony show, a fishing tournament, a renaissance festival, a Halloween corn maze, a plant exchange and a music festival with local artists, among others.
“We can do it. We have a good team. Words are flowing,” Rogers said. “People are interested.”