WILLIAMSTON- From students and staff, to city residents and LGBTQ advocates, the Williamston Board of Education met Oct. 16 as people crowded the halls and filled nearly every seat in the room to discuss the 8011 Transgender and Non-Conforming Student Policy that will reach its final decision on Nov. 6. The meeting began promptly at 7:30 p.m. with citizens’ comments where many members of the community took a stance on the suggested proposal regarding equal protection of transgender and non-conforming students. According to the 8011 Proposal, “WCS shall accept the gender identity that each student asserts reflecting the students’ legitimately held belief once the student or his or her parent/guardian, as appropriate, notifies District administration that the student intends to assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or records.”
The tension in the room began during the Pledge of Allegiance, as many members of the community did not stand up.
After months of deliberation and a slew of meetings trademarked with passionate arguments, the Williamston Community Schools Board of Education passed a pair of policies in November 2017 in relation to transgender youth and their definition, among other guidelines. And despite passing months ago, the debate surrounding the policies have yet to go away. Currently, there’s a pending federal lawsuit that names six of seven Williamston Board of Education members as defendants: Greg Talberg, Christopher Lewis, Sarah Belanger, Nancy Deal, Kathy Hayes and Joel Gerring. The seventh member of the board at the time, Jeffrey West, was the lone vote against the policies, which the school board passed 6-1. He is not named in the lawsuit.
The house at 5108 Barton Road in Williamston looks like any other house. There are trees out front, a few cars parked in the driveway and a garage door wide open, giving people a glimpse of the backyard. All seems normal until the sound of dogs, chickens and alpacas fill the air. Yes, alpacas. In the backyard of this home lies Circle 6 Alpacas, a fiber production farm that houses 30 alpacas, one goat, three horses, two dogs, five cats and 10 chickens.
The quietest place in Williamston could be moving to a new building. Currently located next to Larking and Nortman Memorial Field, the Williamston branch of the Capital Area District Libraries is inside the old Williamston High School and Middle School. The building, now known as the Williamston Commons, holds a lot more than just the library. Inside its old brick walls are various different businesses like Power and Grace Yoga, Raising the Bar boutique store and the library. Crammed in a small section of the building is the Williamston Library.
Williamston has decided to revamp its obsolete city banners and introduce bright new ones to the downtown area. “Yes, the current banner inventory of banners that we have for the city are worn and outdated,” said Tammy Gilroy, Williamston mayor. “The new design will be more in line with our city’s current branding and identity moving forward.”
At the Williamston City Council meeting March 26, pictures of the banners were shown and were predicted to go up in the summer. The city clerk Holly Thompson has been overseeing the banner project and has worked with the designer over the past couple months. “She[Thompson] took the lead on the banner project,” said Rachel Piner city treasurer.
The month of March is known for holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and Pi day, but for many school districts like Williamston, March is best known as reading month. March was chosen to be reading month because of the famous children’s book author Dr. Seuss, whose birthday is March 2. During March, school districts like Williamston, design different activities and bring in guest speakers to talk and read to students. Some of these special readers included author of the “National Park Mysteries” series, Mary Morgan, Williamston school districts director of curriculum and special education Dr. Michele Cook, and state representative Tom Cochran.
It’s not hard to find 304 River Edge Lofts while strolling through downtown Williamston. The four-story brick building stands out in the mix of old-fashioned buildings because of its newness and modern aesthetic. The apartment complex was built last summer and opened in October 2017. With 30 apartments, 17 are sitting empty. With one-bedroom floor plans for $1,250 a month and two-bedroom floor plans for $1,510 a month, property manager Katelyn Franklin said this has some residents concerned.
What was once a calm Williamston City Council meeting turned into a heated debate within the city hall chambers, pitting the Farmers’ Market Ad Hoc Committee and the Williamston City Council. A “spirited back-and-forth” is how the newly-minted council member Daniel Rhines described it. The Williamston Farmers’ Market is set to run for May 20 to Oct. 14. It’s an annual tradition many residents are fond of — including a number of council members.
It might be cold outside, but the Williamston Parents Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is thinking about summer. The Williamston Elementary School PTSA Parent Information night, a supposed “one-stop shop” for parents of Williamston Elementary students, will be held April 16, by the PTSA. This event will take place in the Discovery Elementary Cafeteria 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
“Everyone is welcome, no matter what school district their students attend,” said Michelle Eichler, the member of the Williamston Chamber of Commerce who is hosting the event. “The event is amazing, I used to spend weeks online trying to fill my children’s summer. This event makes it all happen in one hour.”
This is the second year for this event, but even though it is just starting out, its popularity continues to grow.
Wander up the stairs of the Williamston True Value Hardware store, and it has its own storage room. There are remnants from the past, including a run-down kitchen and bathroom from decades ago. But the real treasure lies in the basement. Both the second floor and basement are hidden from the public eye, much like the nested relationship between businesses in the area. It’s there, just unseen.