‘We’ve been climbing this mountain since 2019’

By on August 19, 2023

(photo credit: Ocracoke School),

Four years after Dorian’s damage, the Ocracoke School re-opens on Aug. 25

It has been almost four years since the storm surge from Hurricane Dorian lifted Ocracoke homes off their foundations, closed access to the village for months and perhaps as devastating as anything else, destroyed much of the school that is the center of community life.

“The school is the pillar of our community in a lot of ways. It’s a whole lot in this little, tiny village out in the middle of nowhere,” said Hyde County Commissioner for Ocracoke Randal Matthews.

On Aug. 25, the school will officially reopen, an event former Commissioner Tom Pahl, who represented the village in September 2019, sees as a public display of the resilience of Ocracoke.

“It’s been a real long haul. And not just for the school but for the village, for all the houses that were damaged and people’s lives that were upset by the hurricane,” he said. “It sort of feels like completing the school, maybe we’re finally there. You know, we’ve been climbing this mountain since 2019.”

Groundbreaking for the new school was in October 2021 and according to Pahl, in spite of supply chain issues that plagued the nation in recent years, the school has been finished on time. “The execution has been fantastic,” he said. “Just dead on schedule, if not slightly ahead of schedule.”

It is not a large school—pre-K through 12 in one building with around 170 students. It is, in fact, the smallest school district in the state. Yet, it ranks in the top 10% among North Carolina schools in math and reading proficiency. What may be most remarkable is that the school has retained its high level of performance even while students and classrooms were scattered throughout the village.

“The kids attended school for a while at NCCAT [North Carolina Center For the Advancement Of Teaching]. And then temporary classrooms were brought in. In every way possible, the community and the county has worked hard to try to put that situation back together for those kids as best as possible,” Pahl told the Voice.

The new school is a tribute to the community, according to Nags Head Mayor and architect Ben Cahoon, who designed the building.

“The current superintendent, Dr. Melanie Shaver, and the principal, Leslie Cole, really cared about delivering the school to that community…My understanding derives from their understanding of the importance of that school to that community,” Cahoon said.

As Cahoon explains, it was apparent after a first inspection following Dorian with then Superintendent Steve Basnight (now Superintendent of Dare County Schools) that very little of the school could be saved. The part of the building that housed the elementary grades was able to be raised, which was perhaps one of the most important considerations in whether something could be saved. The media center was also raised above the six-foot Dorian storm surge.

The gym was repaired, but that was all that could be done. “The main building really was not salvageable,” Cahoon explained. “That had been damaged pretty severely by the flood. We decided it needed to be torn down and replaced.

It was an expensive proposition, but funding poured in for the new school.

“The legislators representing Hyde County, which included [Then State Representative] Bobby Hanig… were very generous and DPI [Department of Public Instruction] was very generous…There was a really great synergy between the superintendent, DPI and the legislature, and it was adequate funding to do a really nice job,” he said. Insurance helped pay for construction as well. Reports and estimates indicate that overall, the rebuild cost about $5 million.

Discussing the process of recreating the Ocracoke School. Cahoon said the old classrooms “weren’t the best sort of instructional spaces. It was small.” He also pointed out that in the original design, elementary students had to go outside to get to the gym, “charming, but not great,” as he described it.

“We wanted a building that was appropriate for Ocracoke and one of the models we looked at was the old schoolhouse, which has long been demolished, kind of the classic big white…American schoolhouse. We looked at that as a model and of course the [old] Coast Guard Station [now NCCAT],” he said. “We merged all that together into a preliminary design and went to the Community Meeting Center in Ocracoke, twice at different stages and…received input and then generated the final design incorporating some of those comments we got from the community.”

The end result was something that Cahoon, who grew up in Engelhard in Hyde County, felt he could take particular pride in.

“It was very rewarding because I have a sense of how meaningful the school is to that community,” he said.

As important as the design of the school is, it is the classroom experience that will decide if the new school will be considered a success. And Hyde County Schools Superintendent Melanie Shaver, in an email, indicates she believes the new facility is a real asset.

“As a former science teacher, I would have been elated to teach (or even learn) in our science labs,” she wrote. “I do think that ensuring educational success for our students was considered in the design as well as staying true to the aesthetics and spirit of the Island school.”

With the ribbon cutting scheduled for on Friday, Oct. 25, Shaver, knows what it means for the students and community to have the school available once again.

“We are nothing short of elated that the students will be back in one facility for a whole host of reasons,” she wrote. “Ocracoke School is truly a community school, so the physical structure of having the school back is meaningful not only to the education of our students…but also to the well-being of the whole community.”

Pahl echoes her thoughts.

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity to get together as a community and say, ‘You know what? That was a tough time, but we got through it,’” he said.


Barnhill Contracting Company will receive sealed proposals for Manns Harbor – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-8), Kitty Hawk – EMS/Fire Facility (EMS-9), Manteo – Youth Center on January 09, 2024. Times to be given on via addendum #01. See the following SCOPE OF WORK: BP 100 – General Trades, BP 105 – Final Cleaning, BP 205 – Demolition, BP 390 – Turnkey Concrete, BP 400 – Turnkey Masonry, BP 500 – Turnkey Structural Steel & Misc. Steel, BP 505 – Light Gauge Metal Trusses, BP 740 – Roofing, BP750 – Siding, BP 790 – Caulking/Sealants, BP 800 – Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware/Toilet Specialties/Accessories/Division 10, BP 840 – Curtainwall/Storefront/Glass/Glazing, BP 925 – Drywall/Framing, BP 960 – Resilient Flooring/Carpet/Base/Epoxy, BP 980 – Acoustical Ceilings, BP 990 – Painting and Wall Coverings, BP 1230 – Finish Carpentry and Casework, BP 1250 – Window Treatments, BP 2100 – Fire Protection, BP 2200 – Plumbing, BP 2300 – HVAC, BP 2600 – Electrical, BP 3100 – Earthwork/Turnkey Site, BP 3213- Site Concrete, BP 3290 – Landscaping. Scopes of work may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager.

Bid Location and Time: Bid opening will be held in the Barnhill Contracting Rocky Mount Training & GPS Technology Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Time is as follows: January 09, 2024 at 10:00am and 2:00pm. Times per packages to be given on via addendum #01.

Barnhill Contracting Company will receive, open, and read publicly all bids received in person in the Training & GPS Technology Room at the main office and listed with the virtual viewing at the link to be posted on Barnhill’s Plan Room.

Bids will not be accepted from bidders that are not pre-qualified. No facsimile or email submissions are permitted. Sealed bids are to be hand delivered to the bid opening location noted above or mailed Sealed Bids can be delivered before 9:00am the day of the bid to the Barnhill Contracting Company Office at 800 Tiffany Blvd., Suite 200 Rocky Mount, NC 27804. Attention “Clint Hardison.”

The pre-bid meeting will be held in Person & Zoom Meeting on December 06, 2023 at 10:00 am at the Barnhill Contracting’s Rocky Mount Main Conference Room: 800 Tiffany Bvld, Rocky Mount, NC 27804.

The pre-bid meeting link can be located on Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room ( https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) and below. A preferred brand alternates meeting will be held via the same link at the end of the Prebid meeting.

Bid Documents can be viewed or downloaded through Barnhill’s online Building Division Plan Room (https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b) after 12/04/2023.

All Bidders are strongly encouraged to include opportunities for HUB participation wherever possible in their respective Bid submission.  HUB participation is a part of this contract and must comply with all requirements set forth in the Bid Documents.

The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to add pre-qualified bidders. The Construction Manager and Owner reserve the right to reject any and all bids. Should you require additional direction, please call Barnhill Contracting Company, (Clint Hardison – 252-802-0740).

Clint Hardison is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Dare EMS – Phase 2 Pre-Bid Conference

Time: Dec 6, 2023 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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  • BKT

    Something everyone should be very proud of.

    Saturday, Aug 19 @ 8:28 pm