Northampton receives $15 million for new high school

Published 5:48 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

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JACKSON – The third time’s the charm.

Northampton County Schools received the good news last week that they’re one of six school districts across the state to receive grant money from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund this year. The district was awarded $15 million—the most available for a district located in a Tier One county—to be used for new school construction.

The school district had previously applied for the grant the past two years but had gone empty-handed each time.

The grant was created by the NC General Assembly in 2017 for school districts in Tier One and Tier Two counties to address critical school building capital needs, and the funding can only be used for new construction, not rehabilitation of older buildings.

For Northampton County, that means a new high school in a more centralized location.

“Northampton County Schools has taken a look at its needs and the needs of the students. A centralized high school was the focus of previous conversations to serve all Northampton County communities,” explained Northampton School Superintendent Dr. Pamela Chamblee, who was placed in charge of the district after Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter’s resignation earlier this year in March.

Currently, Northampton’s only high school is located in the western portion of the county in Gaston.

“The need for this new construction is driven by the fact that the old high school was constructed in the early 1960’s,” she added as another factor in the decision.

Dr. Chamblee noted she had not been involved previously with the planning for this new school, but as the new superintendent, she said the leading site for the building still remained the same as with previous discussions.

That site is located in Jackson near Central Elementary School.

“Although the total cost of the new school has not been determined at this time, if the Jackson site is selected, it would save a tremendous amount of money because of the availability of the nearby existing athletic facilities,” she continued.

The superintendent also stated the capacity of the school would be constructed to meet its current student population.

When asked what would be done with the high school building located in Gaston, Dr. Chamblee said it would be up to the county’s Board of Education to create a strategic plan to reconfigure schools within the district.

“We are excited to receive the $15 million, and we thank everyone who made it possible. It is great to be able to make good things happen for children,” she concluded.

One stipulation to receive the grant money is a local match from the county government. For Tier One counties like Northampton, the match is $1 from the county for every $3 in grant funds. For a $15 million grant, Northampton County is required to match $5 million.

County Manager Charles Jackson told the News Herald that the Board of Commissioners have not yet made a decision to set aside any appropriations for the grant, and there was not currently a designated source of revenue for future appropriations.

“I fully support the hard work and dedication of our Board of Education and Dr. Pamela Chamblee,” said Jackson. “I look forward to working with them in the months ahead.”

According to a press release from the NC Department of Public Instruction, a total of $73 million was awarded from the fund this year, including $15 million to Hertford County for a new Ahoskie Elementary School.

In the last three years, the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund has awarded $242 million dollars to school districts across the state, leading to the construction of 22 new schools or buildings and the replacement of 32 schools.