Northampton Schools to get additional building funds

Published 4:59 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

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JACKSON – With recent amendments to the state budget, Northampton County Schools is slated to receive more grant funds for their plan to build a consolidated middle/high school. But those additional funds still fall short of their original cost projection.

Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns shared the information with the Northampton County Board of Education at their regular meeting on July 11.

The additional funds are allocated in H103, an amendment to the two-year state budget which passed last year. After H103 was approved by the state legislature earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill into law on July 11.

A section of the bill addresses the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund (NBPSCF), a program originally created by the NC General Assembly in 2017. It uses state lottery revenues to help address critical school facility needs. Millions of dollars have been doled out across the state since the program’s inception, including previous grant awards in Gates County for school renovations and in Hertford County for the construction of the new Ahoskie Elementary School.

Northampton County Schools applied for funding from the program earlier this year, requesting approximately $75 million to construct a new state-of-the-art, centrally-located school building to house grades 6-12.

Under the guidelines for the NBPSCF program, the maximum award amounts were $30 million for elementary school construction, $40 million for middle schools, and $50 million for high schools. The district applied for the maximum amount for high school construction along with an additional $25 million to incorporate the middle school facility as well.

In May, North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) awarded Northampton County Schools a total of $39,992,730, an amount that fell short of covering the cost of the entire project. Dr. Burns said at the time that the district was hoping to apply for additional funding this year.

In section 4.2(d) of H103, eighteen school districts were awarded additional grant funding from the NBPSCF. Northampton County Schools’ total allocation is $9,998,182.

That brings the district’s total up to just a few thousand dollars short of $50 million.

At the July Board of Education meeting, Dr. Burns noted that the amount still doesn’t fully fund the school construction project they envisioned, but he remained optimistic that the district could possibly obtain more grant funding soon.

Section 4.2(c) of H103 does state that NCDPI shall reconsider previous grant applications that contain multiple projects as a consolidated project grant application. NCDPI’s website also states that 2022 NBPSCF Grant Applications are “coming soon.”

In addition to the proposed school construction project, Northampton County Schools has been making other decisions about district consolidation recently.

Last month, following a public hearing, the Board of Education voted to close Willis Hare Elementary School in Pendleton. The facility first opened in 1957, and the age of the facility as well as health and environmental issues and declining enrollment were among the reasons cited for the decision.

With the closure, all Pre-K to 3rd grade students living in the eastern half of the county will attend Central Elementary School in Jackson, and all 4th through 8th graders in the same area will attend Conway Middle School.