WINSTON — Winston-Dillard School District board of education gave a community group two options for moving a mural, but members of the group are not happy, as both are out of sight.
The mural at Douglas High School can either move to the courtyard outside the cafeteria and performing arts center or to a trail leading from the main road to the school, according to a unanimous decision by the school board during its Jan. 13 regular meeting.
Community members say those places don’t meet all their needs and that board members didn’t want to listen to input from the community.
“We’re trying to promote that this is an issue that we don’t want people to just see every nine weeks or so when we have a show, but it’s something that we want to promote every day while we’re on campus,” said Douglas High School student body president Lucas Van Dermark.
The mural itself shows people of different colors underneath a tree with a sun smiling down on them, an inspirational quote and religious symbols.
An area in the parking lot, just outside the main building, selected by Van Dermark was not a good option according to the school board. It cited the impact on the construction schedule and safety concerns in case of an active shooter on campus, as their main concerns.
Jeremy Mitchell requested the board consider placing the mural in the oak grove in the circle drive where students get dropped off. He submitted a letter to the board prior to the meeting, but also addressed them during public participation.
Mitchell is a part of the school bond community advisory committee and was the treasurer of the political action committee that helped pass the bond for Winston-Dillard School District. He is also on the board of the Winston Area Community Partnership, which is collecting funds for the mural and a nonprofit that funds the Winston Teen Center.
Mitchell explained in an interview with The News-Review that he’d like for the mural to be visual to the community. An online poll in a school bond advisory committee group on Facebook, which was started following the school board meeting, showed “a pretty convincing majority” preferred the oak grove as the new location, according to Mitchell.
Van Dermark argued to the board that the locations they approved were not ideal. He said in his four years in high school, he had never stepped foot on the trail and that the area was off-limits to students during school hours. He also noted the courtyard was only accessible if people got out of their vehicles and would not be easily viewed by the public.
Mitchell and Van Dermark are working to survey the student body at the school to gather their input on the issue and hope to present that to the board during the Feb. 10 meeting.
The community group had been given until the end of February to move the mural from its current location. The building adjacent to the mural will be demolished at the end of the school year as part of ongoing construction at the school.
Mitchell said the area in the courtyard outside the cafeteria, would be the oldest part of the school and it’s likely where the next construction project would take place — meaning the wall would have to move again.
There is another mural, which was created at the same time by the same artists, currently located near the cafeteria.
Ibbie Brosi, a Douglas High School alumnus and former class president, got involved with the community efforts after the Jan. 13 board meeting. She too said the mural should be in a visual place and found the circle drive to be the ideal location.
“I walked by it every day as a student,” Brosi said. “And I remember reading the words as a freshman.”
Now, Brosi said the word unity is something that the Winston-Dillard School District could use when it comes to this mural.
Originally moving the mural had been included in the construction budget of the high school renovations and remodel, but it was removed to cut costs.
The Winston Area Community Partnership raised nearly $10,000 to move the mural after it was excluded from the construction budget. The school board said it would donate an amount not to exceed $2,500 to move the wall.
“To me, the mural is a sign of hope,” Mitchell said. “It inspires and gives people hope that the world can be a better place. It dares kids to learn more and be better. This is something that should be celebrated and not hidden.”