03/23/04 — School board proposes $82.5 million in new construction

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School board proposes $82.5 million in new construction

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 23, 2004 2:06 PM

After deliberating for seven hours on Monday, the school board agreed to send an $82.5 million construction plan to the Wayne County commissioners.

Included in the proposal are new high schools in Grantham and Mount Olive, two auxiliary gymnasiums in the southern end of the county, and replacement classrooms at Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools.

School Board Work Session

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

School board members discuss an $82.5 million construction plan that will be sent to county commissioners. From left are Shirley Sims, back to camera, John Grantham, Chairman Pete Gurley, Schools Superintendent Steve Taylor, Assistant Superintendent Sprunt Hill, and board members George Moye and Thelma Smith.

An estimated $3 million will also be designated for projects in central Goldsboro.

No vote was taken during the work session. The board will meet again on Wednesday afternoon to officially approve the proposal.

A $41.2 million "priority list" has been on hold for 14 months. Originally $58 million, it was reduced by $18 million when the county commissioners sent it back for revision. That equaled the amount estimated for a new high school in Grantham.

In recent months, citizen groups from Grantham and Mount Olive have campaigned for schools in their communities. School board discussions independently and with commissioners had all but stalled until the idea of a bond referendum gained momentum.

Board members said Monday that their main concerns were to represent every part of the county to gain public approval for a bond referendum, while keeping the amount reasonable enough to get approval from the commissioners.

Under the proposal, the county would have eight high schools.

With the addition of Grantham and Mount Olive high schools, Southern Wayne would become "Brogden High School."

Board member John Grantham proposed a ninth high school to offset the burgeoning population in the northern end of the county, but the board stuck to its original plan to build 20 more classrooms at Charles B. Aycock High School.

Board member Thelma Smith produced a list of needs from the central Goldsboro schools, many of which fell under programs that could be funded from other sources. She also asked for assurances that the six city schools, which school officials call the "central attendance area," would be represented on the construction plan.

"If we can ensure that the central attendance area is included in these millions of dollars on the facilities plan, then I believe you'll have their support," Mrs. Smith said.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, helped Mrs. Smith calculate the $3 million figure for projects, which include air conditioning the School Street Elementary gymnasium, a concession stand and auditorium seats at Dillard Middle, air conditioning the rifle range at Goldsboro High School, and a library and new gymnasium at Goldsboro Middle School.

The plan also includes a new elementary school and a new middle school to relieve overcrowding in northern and eastern Wayne. Those schools would total $20 million.

The board took out $5 million in projects from its original plan. It cut out renovations at Mount Olive Middle, Southern Wayne High and Goldsboro High schools; cut out new metal roofs planned for Rosewood, Eastern Wayne and Norwayne middle schools; and reduced the amount designated for new classrooms at Northeast and Northwest elementary schools.

A proposed athletic complex at Spring Creek High School, estimated at $750,000, will be cut to $375,000. The other half of that $750,000 will go to Eastern Wayne High School for a field house.

New schools in Grantham and Mount Olive, budgeted at $18 million each, and $3 million for the central Goldsboro projects brought the amount to $75 million.

The remaining $7.5 million will be earmarked for auxiliary gymnasiums at Spring Creek High School and the proposed Brogden High School. It would also include replacing classrooms at Norwayne Middle for $2.5 million and replacing classrooms at Eastern Wayne Middle for $2 million.

At its peak, the plan topped $92 million but the board could not reach consensus. Board Chairman Pete Gurley, unable to get unanimous support from the seven-member board, expressed frustration at the stalemate.

"Compromise is where nobody comes out satisfied," he said.

Board member John Grantham said he was encouraged when the amount was at $78 million but felt terrible when it reached $92 million.

"I think the county commissioners are not going to be behind it unless the people are, and I didn't know if the people were going to be behind it," he said.

Dr. Steve Taylor, superintendent of schools, said that the board has put in a lot of hard work over the last couple of years and has had to make some tough decisions in formulating its list of construction needs.

He said that when the completed plan is submitted to the county commissioners, County Manager Lee Smith wants a joint meeting with both boards to discuss it.

Transfer policy

Also discussed at the work session were the school system's transfer policy and the ongoing problem with racial imbalance in some of the schools.

Mrs. Smith said that the policy has hurt the student population at schools in the inner city.

"The transfer policy has negatively impacted the central attendance area," she said. "It's not a racial hurt; it's a student population hurt. It has done a terrible disservice to the central attendance area."

She said that in the six city schools, only 41 students are not minorities, and she does not see the situation improving.

"Is anyone concerned that the central attendance area is 100 percent minority?" she asked.

She said the lack of diversity does not give students the opportunity to interact with students of different races and cultures.

"Does it bother anybody but me?" she asked again.

"You know it bothers me but I don't know what to do about it," replied board member Shirley Sims.

Board member George Moye said the transfer policy does not need major surgery but could use a tune-up.