Renovations of BHS supported

Published 10:18 am Tuesday, July 28, 2009

WINDSOR – Renovations and additions to Bertie High School are simply a matter of time.

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners approved a request from the county school board to seek $5.2 million in funding for the proposed project during their meeting last week.

“It’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when and when is now,” said Bertie County Commission Chairman Norman M. Cherry Sr.

Thanks to being spurred by an email from Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb, the school district organized quickly to take advantage of roughly $1.2 million in Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSC).

The decision was made two weeks ago by the Bertie County Board of Education to seek to use those funds to renovate and expand at Bertie High School. After a presentation by SmithSinnett Architecture showing the possibilities that exist in renovating the school, the school board voted unanimously to seek an endorsement from commissioners to seek the QSC funds as well as approximately $4 million in QZAB (Qualified Zone Academy Bonds) to make major renovations to BHS.

They took that request to the Bertie County Commissioners Monday evening and that board voted unanimously to endorse the plan.

“We as a board have always been proponents of education,” said Cherry. “That has been obvious since 2000 when I came on the board and was probably true long before that. We have given education everything we possibly can.

“All of us believe something needs to be done to Bertie High School,” he added. “With the proposal that they came with and the monies that are available, we knew it was something we could support.”

Cherry said the $2.1 million in QSC funding that would be a no-interest loan helped the commissioners in being able to support the plan.

“We have to get the money, but we think we can do that without creating an unnecessary burden on taxpayers,” he said.

With the endorsement of the county board in toe, Bertie County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chip Zullinger and his board have been busy working on the next phase of the plan.

“One of the difficult things to work through is the desire of the public to have a new high school and the financial restraints to make that happen at one time,” Dr. Zullinger said. “The notion we’ve come around to is to take the money and see if we can create a new facility that might be paired with other construction so that over time we end up with a new high school.”

The first part of the plan will be to build a new gymnasium for Bertie High School that will be built in the parking lot between the current gym and the 900 Building (the one closest to U.S. 13).

“We want to create a new face for what Bertie High School is and this is a place to start,” the superintendent said. “The limitation of gym space is obvious. When we have graduation, we are so limited in the number who can attend. We are looking to build something that is comparable to other people we compete against.”

The superintendent said moving the ninth and tenth grade to the old Southwestern Middle School campus combined with and the Early College High School and the STEM School, the location of high school students was varied.

“When we do coalesce together, it is at ball games, graduation, meetings and there is no space,” he said. “The locker rooms are subpar and we don’t have what we need for physical education.”

The new gym will be the first priority during renovation followed by upgrades to the 100 Building (main office building).

The timetable is a quick one according to the superintendent.

“We want to make this happen as quickly as we can,” Dr. Zullinger said. “It’s important for us to capitalize on construction costs while they’re down about 35 percent. If you couple that with the money that we’re getting at zero interest, we can provide a more economical deal for our citizens.”

SmithSinnett is likely to make a full report at the next meeting of the school board to lay out plans and timetables.