New Hanover County Schools want voters to be informed when they determine the fate of a $160 million school bond at the polls in November.
Eddie Anderson, director of facility planning and construction, reached out to local municipalities with a request to consider a resolution encouraging voters to get involved and understand the needs behind the bond.
“Our role and our intent is to get as much information to the voters so they can make informed decisions,” Anderson said.
No date is set for the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen to consider the resolution but town manager Tim Owens confirmed he received it and agreed with the county’s advice to make a well-informed decision at the polls.
“If you’re voting for something or against something, you need to be informed. So it’s important to stay tuned, see what’s happening, get the full picture,” Owens said during a July 10 phone interview.
The bond includes a $7.3 million project to renovate and expand Wrightsville Beach School. The improvements would bring classes held in 10 mobile units and the nearby Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church back into the main building.
Anderson said more classes meet in mobile units than in traditional classrooms at Wrightsville Beach School.
The project would expand the school’s media center, create a more secure and easily identifiable entrance, and add a second story with classrooms and support offices.
A conceptual plan drafted by Sawyer Sherwood and Associate offers an idea of what the school will look like after construction is complete.
Anderson said he requested the plan to assure the project is possible despite many unique restrictions, like conflicting code requirements and the size and location of the site.
“State law prohibits kids in grades kindergarten and first from being on the second floor, so we’ve got to keep those classrooms and all the other spaces they would go to … on the first floor. Then the other challenge, what’s contradicting that, is that the zoning ordinance for Wrightsville Beach says you can’t have anything on the ground,” Anderson said.
With those restrictions in mind, kindergarteners and first graders will use rooms in the existing structure and third, fourth and fifth graders will move into a new suite of classrooms overlooking the water on the second floor.
A paved space underneath the second floor will provide a sheltered outdoor play area.
Anderson said the capacity of the school after additions will still be less than the current number of students attending the school. He said the size and location of the site limit growth, adding that part of the solution for Wrightsville Beach School is reducing its population.
“Let’s face it: this is never going to be a 600-student elementary school. The site’s not big enough. The building’s not big enough. We can’t accommodate traffic as it is,” Anderson said.
If the bond passes, Wrightsville Beach students will move to the newly constructed College Park Elementary during the 2018-19 school year, when Wrightsville Beach School will be renovated and expanded. College Park students will continue to attend a swing site about six and one-half miles away while Wrightsville Beach students meet at their school.
The county will be redistricted before school resumes for the 2019-20 school year.
“We don’t want to have to move kids but August 2019 will be a major redistricting and that map will look nothing like this one,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the attempt to disseminate as much information as possible allows parents to prepare for big changes like redistricting.
“Not only do we want people to know what’s included in the bond, what the needs are, why we’re doing what we’re doing so they can vote and make educated decisions, but if you’re going to buy a house, you need to know what the school’s plans are,” Anderson said.
County schools are currently 3,500 students more than capacity and expect to grow by 3,000 students by 2020. Without the bond, Anderson said schools will receive more mobile units, continue to sacrifice art and music rooms for classroom space, or even switch to multi-track year-round or split-shift schedules.
“From a facility conditions standpoint, we would just continue to do the best we can with the funding we do have. But we can’t keep up,” Anderson said.
For more information about the bond, visit www.nhcs.net/bond