Durham County

Durham school board backs Whitted renovation, nonprofit for youths

The Durham Public Schools board voted Thursday night to fund two community projects: the redevelopment of Whitted Junior High School and Made in Durham, a nonprofit that wants to serve local disconnected youth.

The board voted 6-1 to provide an additional $800,000 of capital funding to the Whitted Project, which will redevelop the building into senior housing and a preschool for 144 students.

The school board had previously committed $5 million to the project, but redevelopment costs have increased. Board members expressed hesitation passing the motion. One major concern was that Durham County, a partner in the project, has yet to commit to covering operating costs of the facility.

The board voted unanimously to provide $100,000 to Made in Durham this year, and will give the same amount next year if benchmarks are met.

The nonprofit is a public-private partnership with a goal of helping Durham youth obtain an education and employment with a living wage. The public sector has been asked to fund one-third of the budget. This is split three ways between DPS, Durham County and the City of Durham. The private sector and philanthropy will support the other two-thirds of Made in Durham’s budget.

“We are not flush with funds to do projects like this. What we are doing is taking a leap of faith in building trust with employers in our community,” said board member Natalie Beyer. “There is no reason employers shouldn’t trust our students. Our students are fantastic.”

Look for a fuller report on Thursday night’s meeting late today.

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