By Sarah Richardson
After over a year of construction, dedication, and hard work, the Bolling School in Lewisburg once again has students walking down the hallways and learning in the classrooms. Now the new home of the Greenbrier Community School (GCS), the building has seen an extensive renovation since GCS acquired it in 2018.
Rece Nester, the Head of GCS, said that it’s been great too finally have students back in the space after all the effort they have put into the renovations.
Over the fall and winter months, the school has been a space for tutoring, learning pods, and small group sessions. They hosted an open house for the community last May where they gave tours, held a silent auction, and answered questions. They plan to host another open house in the near future, and are currently offering tours for those interested in new student enrollment.
“Our curriculum is innovative and student centered with an emphasis on independent thinking and problem solving,” states their website. “Our students mature into confident, self-directed learners who recognize the value of collaboration and cooperation in the learning environment. We prepare our students for later education and for life by giving them an appreciation for beauty, a desire for truth and the capacity to love themselves and those around them.”
The first Bolling School building was actually destroyed by a fire in 1936. The current structure was then built, and completed in 1940. The school operated there though 1963, where, after integration, it became Lewisburg Middle School, and later a community center. Greenbrier Community School purchased the building in 2018, and will begin their first semester of classes this fall. However, students have already been using the space while they hosted a two-week summer camp at the end of June and into July.
“The hum of the sound of children in the school building has been really remarkable,” said Nester. “It was pretty monumental for the school as a property to be a school again for the new generation. It was a pretty important day, and it was very emotional. We are so lucky and honored to be the ones to reopen the property.”
A press release from the January 8, 2015 edition of the Mountain Messenger provides a bit of information about Professor Edward A. Bolling, for whom the school is named:
From Apr. 7, 1869, when the Board of Education for the township of Lewisburg acquired a building for the purpose of a free school for African American children, to the rocky course of actual integration in the 1950s this struggle was all too true.
And in the end, it was people who made the difference. People such as Professor Edward A. Bolling who, in a biography posted on the WV Archives and History site, was noted to have been an educator in this area for over 40 years. He was born in Greenbrier County on Nov. 28, 1860, on the eve of the Civil War. He grew up in Richmond and was graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore, MD. In 1877, after teaching in Richmond for four years, he returned to Greenbrier County where he was appointed principal and teacher at the Lewisburg Colored School.
The WV Archives and History site indicates that, “For five consecutive summers, 1910-14, Prof. Bolling was one of the instructors in the State Summer School for colored teachers at the West Virginia Collegiate Institute. In 1915, he was granted a State Life Certificate by the West Virginia State Board of Education. This Board is composed entirely of white men who are among the leading educators of the State. This high honor has been conferred on only a comparatively few white persons and on only about ten colored men of the entire State. In Mr. Bolling’s own county of Greenbrier only two white and no other colored persons have been awarded this honor.”
Professor Bolling was so well respected that, in 1933, Earl Charles Clay, then principal, renamed Lewisburg Colored Junior High School as Bolling Junior High and Elementary School, after its original principal. The original building was destroyed by fire in 1939 and rebuilt and opened again in the fall of 1941. In 1935, Bolling became a full 12 grade high school and was one of only four African American high schools in the entire State of West Virginia.
For more information on the Greenbrier Community School, visit https://www.greenbriercommunityschool.org/.