Board gets wish-list on construction needs

First Posted: 1/15/2009

LUMBERTON -- Although a new central office is on Superintendent Barry Harding's wish-list on how to spend $12 million of construction money the system has remaining from $64 million in bond funds, board members say it is a low priority.
Also on the list are an alternative school, a magnet high school at the COMtech industrial site and additional parking space at various schools. Harding presented the school board with his list on Monday night.
Harding suggested in April that the board consider selling the central office building on N.C. 72 West and buy a new, larger site. He had recommended that the school system purchase the old Lowe's building as an answer to the administration's space needs.
Board members say the old Lowe's building was discussed in the past. But, says Terry Smith, school renovations should come before the school system moves into a new central office.
“Students come first over central office personnel,” he said. “If the students are uncomfortable, then the educational production is probably not taking place. If we are spending money that is in short supply to start with, we should make sure the kids benefit from expenditures.”
Board Chairman Mike Smith said there hasn't been any serious talk recently about buying the Lowe's building.
“That is just something that has been kicked around,” he said. “There hasn't been any real discussion about it.”
Magnet school
The only item on the list that has a price attached is the magnet high school, which would cost $5 million and be at the COMtech park near Pembroke.
Board member Robert Deese says a magnet school “would impact students, not only now, but down the road.”
“One of the county's biggest problems in recruiting industry is a trained work force,” Deese said. “An industrial technical park is being developed to train people with skills to go into the labor force and further their education. Now is the time to go ahead with this, while we've got the funds.”
Magnet schools are designed for middle and high school students and involve a collaboration of university, community and industrial engineers and instructors. Such schools offer college preparatory courses and train students in the electrical, vocational, and industrial field and include music, art and multimedia technology classes.
Terry Smith also seems to favor building a magnet school.
“The school system should plan for that facility and maybe set aside money every year to build up a fund,” he said.
He said that he prefers to see an alternative school established first. The school would be designed for troubled or at-risk students. Harding's list recommends placing the alternative school at Carroll Middle School or “another appropriate site.”
Deese said that additional classrooms, parking space and leaky roofs are other major needs.
The board will eventually make the decision on how the money is spent. Chairman Smith has said the board will hold special meetings to discuss construction needs.
“These are only recommendations,” Smith said. “Nothing has been set in stone.”
Terry Smith said that several schools “didn't have access to the first round of bond money. We need to go back and look at those schools first.”
The school system originally identified $225 million in repairs and renovations, but reduced that list after learning that it would receive only $64 million.

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