Central Middle project set ‘on go’

Published 1:25 pm Thursday, June 15, 2017

GATESVILLE – Pending approval of the Local Government Commission (LGC), an $8 million plan to provide significant upgrades to Central Middle School, including construction of a new wing, is set “on go.”

Last week at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Gates County Board of Education, Dr. Jim Watson gave the large crowd on hand a glimpse at the renovations planned for the aging school.

Watson, a consultant for Pinnacle Architecture – the firm under contact to provide design and engineering services for the project – said the existing sixth and seventh grade wing of the school will be renovated. That area of the school includes the cafeteria.

The area currently serving the eighth grade will be demolished and in its place will be 41,300 square feet of new construction. That part of the project includes a covered entranceway. He said that door will be open for students/parents to enter, but will automatically lock when the final bell rings signaling the start of classes.

“From that point, tardy students will need to check in at the office, with their parent, before being allowed to enter the main building,” Watson explained.

With the floor plan illustrated on a large projection screen, Watson noted all the other portions of the new construction. They include – for school staff – a reception area, and office space for the principal, assistant principal, finance officer, School Resource Officer, guidance counselor, and school nurse. The main office section also includes staff restrooms, a large conference room, a work room and a storage area.

The education space includes a large Business Computer Technology classroom, computer lab, CTE classroom, and 10 other classrooms for math, science, social studies, language arts, health, and STEM. The plans also call for the construction of a spacious Media Center.

There are two large rooms that will accommodate the school’s band as well as space for art students.

Across from that area of the school is a commons, flanked by student restrooms. That leads into a new gym, one that will have a wooden floor and a seating capacity of 650. The gym area also features new locker rooms.

The gym will have a pitched metal roof.

Watson said the exterior design will afford a better and easier accessible driveway, capable of handling 75 vehicles at the time for student drop-off and pick-up purposes. A separate area to the left of the gym will serve as the bus parking lot.    

“All of the changes suggested by the school staff in our preliminary drawings have been made,” Watson said.

He did, however, share some bad news about the project.

“Construction costs are rising,” Watson stressed. “We will work hard to keep the costs down to fit the budget set aside for this work. The sooner we can get the construction bids in hand should help with getting a better price.”

Gates County Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams was initially hopeful that the demolition of the eighth grade wing could start immediately while the students are away on summer break. However, that didn’t work out as planned.

“The LGC has to first approve the money our county commissioners have agreed to set aside for this much-needed project, and that group doesn’t meet again until the early fall,” Williams explained. “I’m thinking more along the lines of early December before the demolition can begin.”

Williams added that all equipment in the eighth grade wing of the school will be immediately moved and stored.

“We plan to shutdown that wing of the school by Aug. 1,” he said.

When the students and staff return in late August to begin the 2017-18 school year, all will be housed in the sixth and seventh grade wing. Williams said the cafeteria, when not serving meals, will be utilized as learning space.

As far as Central Middle School’s 2017-18 athletic schedule for volleyball and basketball, Williams said those games will be played at the high school.

“We’re hopeful that this project can remain on schedule as we’re looking at next summer to renovate the sixth and seventh grade wing,” Williams stated. “We excited about this opportunity to vastly improve the educational environment for our students and the work environment for our staff at Central Middle School.”

After studying as many as a half-dozen options, the Gates County Board of Commissioners approved earlier this year spending $8 million on the Central Middle School project. This came after the board learned that the county was receiving approximately $550,000 more annually thanks to a new state sales tax distribution formula approved by the North Carolina General Assembly. It was noted that this money could help offset the debt service payments of the Central Middle School construction/renovation project.

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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