County’s aging schools need upgrades

Published 10:51 am Monday, February 21, 2011

Despite recent renovations/new buildings to the tune of six-plus million dollars at three Gates County schools, the need to repair and/or replace aging buildings remains as a top priority.

However, this latest list of proposed improvements comes at a much steeper price – $22.23 million.

Earlier this month, officials with Gates County Schools released their Facility Needs Assessment (FSA) as required by state statute. As part of that requirement, the local school system must present copies of those plans (5 and 10-year needs) to the North Carolina State Board of Education and the Gates County Board of Commissioners.

As noted in the presentation to the commissioners, their acceptance of the proposal does not constitute an endorsement or commitment to fund what was outlined in the FSA.

The 21-page plan presented to the commissioners details the facility needs in the near future (0-5 years) and long range (6-10 years).

As expected, the bulk of the proposed work needed in the near future is at the county’s two largest educational facilities, the high school and the middle school. Between the two, the FSA projected $8,762,870 worth of repairs/renovations/new construction.

Just over $5 million is needed at the middle school, a price that includes $1.23 million for 8,532 square feet of added space (four new classrooms, dining area, administrative/guidance area), window replacement ($546,000), air conditioning ($697,500), roof replacement ($313,875) and $1 million in structural repairs.

The assessment projected $3.56 million of needs for the high school over the next five years. The lion’s share of that money, if the project is approved, would be a $900,000 price tag for air conditioning, $800,000 worth of structural repairs, $360,000 for a sprinkler system, $273,000 for new windows and $250,000 earmarked for hazardous material abatement.

Of the county’s three elementary schools, T.S. Cooper needs the most work (in dollars) over the next five years. According to the FSA, the Sunbury facility lists $1.89 million in needed renovations/repairs. Nearly one-half of that would pay for structural repairs (estimated at $560,000) and for air conditioning ($306,062). Cooper also needs $165,274 for roof work and new windows ($136,500). There is $140,000 worth of hazardous material abatement at the school.

Buckland Elementary was listed as needing $1.24 million in renovations from now through 2016. One-half of that would be used structural repairs ($512,000) and window replacement ($163,800). The school lists $90,000 worth of hazardous material abatement.

Gatesville Elementary needs the least amount of work ($1.19 million) over the first five years of the FSA. Air conditioning ($352,650), structural repairs ($290,000) and roof replacement ($158,692) comprise the lion’s share of that projected work.

Meanwhile, Gatesville Elementary leads the district ($3.4 million) in proposed long term needs (6-10 years). The FSA lists a need for six new classrooms (three at the Pre-K level) at a combined cost of $859,050. The long term needs at the school also include air conditioning ($1.01 million), roof replacement ($456,604) and demolition of a 1951 era wing at the school ($250,000).

Buckland Elementary School is projected to need $2.5 million in additions/renovations over the long term. That proposal includes the addition of 6,885 square feet of new space, highlighted by four new classrooms. The price tag for the new construction is estimated at $932,190.

Other long-term projected needs at Buckland include air conditioning ($600,000), demolishing an old wing of the school ($250,000) and roof replacement ($225,112).

Six-to-ten year needs at the high school total $2.17 million. That proposal includes 5,022 square feet of added space valued at $832,460; air conditioning ($538,800) and roof replacement ($242,460).

The long-term needs at both Central Middle School ($635,448) and T.S. Cooper Elementary School ($445,070) are both listed at less than one million dollars.

All proposed projects include contingency funds, administrative/design fees and furnishings/equipment.

The FSA also listed the planned student capacity at each school. Those numbers are as follows:

Buckland Elementary – 275 (0-5 years); 260 (6-10 years);

Central Middle – 420 (0-5 years); 435 (6-10 years);

Gates County High School – 575 (0-5 years); 550 (6-10 years);

Gatesville Elementary – 340 (0-5 years); 320 (6-10 years); and

T.S. Cooper Elementary – 300 (0-5 years); 285 (6-10 years).

The last major renovation project within Gates County Schools was completed in 2009. That $6.5 million was spent for a new gym at the high school; new classroom wings at Buckland and Cooper and an addition to the Cooper cafeteria.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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