The board’s action Monday night represents a major step forward toward accomplishing the top four school construction priorities. Earlier this fall, both the school board and Board of Commissioners signed off on a plan that would build three new elementary schools and the specialized high school. The Board of Commissioners last month approved putting a referendum to voters in March that would raise the sales tax a quarter-cent to help fund school construction.
The school board, with the commissioners’ approval, will use $320,000 from the state lottery to further investigate the sites’ suitability. If they are found satisfactory, school officials will then negotiate a potential purchase. The school system earlier this year approved the purchase of a site off N.C. 5 in Aberdeen for a new 800-student elementary school to replace Aberdeen Primary and Aberdeen Elementary schools.
Among the projects moving forward Monday night are:
*A new 800-student elementary school for the Whispering Pines area, a region that’s home to the county’s most crowded elementary schools. Administrators have found a developer interested in selling 25 acres of a 140-acre tract at Airport and Camp Easter roads. School officials believe they can get the land for $300,000, or $12,000 an acre. Extending water and sewer to the site would cost another $1.6 million.
All told, school officials think they could secure the site for $1.9 million, a bit below their budgeted cost of $2.1 million.
If ultimately developed, the new school is located such that it would siphon off 230 students from Sandhills Farm Life and 250 students from Vass-Lakeview. That would leave those two schools below their current capacities of 614 and 581 students, respectively.
Board member Laura Lang expressed concerns with the water and sewer access and spending money out-of-pocket for the land.
“Do we want to proceed with this and be stuck with if we can find better land?” Lang asked board members.
“We’re doing negotiations,” Schools Superintendent Bob Grimesey said. “It is not guaranteed that we are going to buy the land as we proceed with the investigation.”
The board voted 6-1 to move ahead with the site. Lang cast the sole vote against. Board member Libby Carter was absent.
* A new 800-student elementary school for Southern Pines to replace the aging Southern Pines Primary and Southern Pines Elementary schools. Both those schools are more than 70 years old.
For a new school in Southern Pines, school officials first considered: Tearing down Southern Pines Primary and rebuilding in its place; locating a school next to Southern Middle School in Aberdeen; or building an elementary on a reconfigured Pinecrest High School site.
In the end, administrators faced either insufficient land (Southern Pines Primary), inefficient design (Southern Middle), or extensive site development costs (Pinecrest). That led administrators instead to recommend a two-story, 800-student school in the Morganton Park North development off Morganton Road.
The developer has expressed an interest in selling 12 acres for $1 million — $82,645 an acre — and then donating an additional 6.5 acres, a value of $537,190. Including land development, the total cost for the Morganton Park North site would be $1.3 million, less than the budgeted cost of $1.78 million.
The site would connect to several West Southern Pines neighborhoods, something board members found particularly attractive.
“Because this piece of property is located in the community, people can bike and walk to the school and give the opportunity for children to be more active,” board member Helena Wallin-Miller said. “This is a great opportunity for a good piece of land. We might lose it if we don’t take the necessary steps.”
School Board Vice Chairman Ed Dennison agreed: “The benefit of this piece of property will be a great move in school excellence.”
The board voted 6-1 to move ahead with this site. Lang again cast the sole vote against. She has said previously the school would have made more sense next to Pinecrest High because the county already owns land there.
* A new high school for specialized curriculum. The school system is talking with Sandhills Community College about locating it 15 acres across the street from the college’s main Airport Road campus and beside The O’Neal School. Students from all three current high schools would attend specialized and advanced classes there during the day and return back to their home schools in the afternoon.The board last week approved a $1.8 million contract with the architectural firm of Moseley Architects to begin working on a design.
The center, expected to open in early 2019, is expected to alleviate crowding at Pinecrest and Union Pines high schools, offer an expanded platform of advanced level coursework and increase student access to college credits and post-graduate industrial certifications and licenses. Classes at the ACC are being clustered into four pathways: health services, skilled contracting, global leadership, and STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics].
SCC’s Board of Trustees is looking into options to either sell, lease or donate the land, which extends all the way to N.C. 22.
Moore County Schools, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, sponsored a business and community forum last week to discuss how best to leverage learning at the Career Center. Grimesey praised the discussion that came out of that meeting.
“The summit was a remarkable success due to the students, teachers, staff, and community members,” Grimesey said. “It provided valuable insight and forged relationships between all community members.”
In a separate-but-related action, the Board of Education also approved a resolution supporting a plan to raise the local sales tax a quarter-cent. Commissioners have said the money would go toward funding school construction. Voters will consider the sales tax increase during the March primary election.
“It is important to note that there are no other options on the table,” Lang said. “We need to pass this to get things moving and keep things moving forward on our new facilities.”
In other business Monday night, board members also:
*Unanimously approved several amendments to various policies. Most of the changes were technical or minor and were necessary to comply with changes in state law this past year.
*Presented four Moore County Schools employees — Amy Garner, Damon Clark, Keshia Leach and Ken Von Canon — with the Growing to Greatness Award. *Acknowledged Union Pines High School students Mary Beth Jackson and Hailee Haymore on their success for winning tennis championships in the county and conference.