By: Eddie Anderson, Assistant Superintendent for Operations
It’s been two years since voters in New Hanover County overwhelmingly passed a $160 million bond referendum to improve our school facilities and enhance the educational experience for all students. Safety, security, and modernization of our existing facilities are the primary focus of the bond program. New construction, additions, and renovations also increase classroom space to serve the growing student population and provide educational facilities for 21st Century learning. The projects are proceeding on schedule, and the 2nd anniversary is a good opportunity to provide the following update.
District-Wide Technology Improvements
To improve safety and security at all of our school campuses, cameras are being added as part of the bond program. Phase one of the camera installations has been completed. Cameras at all schools will be completed by mid-year of the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, the network infrastructure is being upgraded to provide faster wireless and internet access, and a more robust, reliable network will be supported. This work will be completed by 2018-2019 school year. The bond program also includes beginning the district-wide transition to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). All new schools will be constructed with VoIP; and all administrative offices will be converted by the end of 2016.
District-Wide Building Systems/Infrastructure Improvements
Roof replacements, HVAC system improvements, upgrades and improvements to our building controls, and removal of asbestos containing materials in our schools are included to provide for safe, energy efficient facilities. Since beginning our energy management program in 2011, we have been able to reduce energy use, and subsequently, reduce our energy budget by over $1 million. This has been achieved primarily through education, awareness, and a change in users’ practices. However, we have also aligned our capital improvements to maximize the benefits of the program. Our focus is to maximize the efficiency of building envelopes, while simultaneously improving the operating efficiency of systems within the buildings. As a result, facilities operate with reduced energy costs and maintain safe, comfortable environments for learning.
Roof replacement projects have been completed at Sunset Park and Carolina Beach elementary schools. At Pine Valley Elementary School, we’ve implemented a roof resurfacing project that will extend the life of the roof until a complete replacement of the facility occurs in a future building program. Roofs at Trask Middle, Roland-Grise Middle, Hoggard High and Laney High schools will be completed as part of major renovations to those facilities. Roof replacement is planned for the International School at Gregory and New Hanover High School, and a roof coating will be applied at our Veterans Park schools to extend the life of those roofs. These roof projects will be completed in the upcoming years of the program.
HVAC improvement projects have been completed at Eaton, Codington, and Bradley Creek elementary schools, and Johnson Pre-K Center. The cooling tower was replaced at Veterans Park, and the HVAC and building controls are currently being upgraded within each school at the campus. Additional HVAC equipment and controls projects will be completed at several other schools during the next few years to continue our efforts to improvement operating efficiency and reduce energy costs.
High School Additions and Renovations
To meet today’s educational program requirements, additions and renovations at three of our high schools are included in the bond program and are currently under construction. These projects are expanding the existing facilities, improving vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow, and are incorporating district-wide technology and building system improvements to provide safer and more efficiency facilities. Work on all three campuses is underway.
Originally constructed in 1967, Hoggard High School is receiving improvements designed to provide much needed additional space and update the existing building systems. The work will be completed by the start of the 2017-18 school year and includes construction of a new main gymnasium, renovations to existing classroom buildings, and an expansion of the cafeteria.
Laney High School is also receiving much needed additional space and improvements to its infrastructure that was initially constructed in 1976. A new main gymnasium, media center, and renovations to the existing classroom building are underway and will be completed for the commencement of the 2017-18 school year.
At New Hanover High School, renovations of the George West Building are in progress and will also be completed for the start of the 2017-18 school year. This facility was originally constructed in 1954 and houses science labs, Career and Technical Education classrooms, the band room, and the ROTC program. Renovations will restore the building infrastructure and modernize these educational spaces. In addition, HVAC improvements at Brogden Hall are also underway. These improvements will be completed by the end of the current calendar year and will expand air conditioning to the gymnasium.
Middle School Renovations
Major renovations to Myrtle Grove, Roland-Grise, Noble, and Trask middle schools are included in the bond program, and we are preparing to begin the design for the first phase of these projects. These renovations will include repair or replacement of outdated building systems and components; improvements to bring the facilities into compliance with local and state building codes, ordinances, and regulations; site improvements for improved vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow; and improvements to create safe, modern, and appropriate learning environments. The design team selection for Myrtle Grove and Roland-Grise middle schools’ renovations will soon occur; the building and site improvements are scheduled to be completed by August 2019. Renovations at Noble and Trask middle schools are scheduled to be completed by August 2020.
Elementary School New Construction and Additions
The new Porters Neck Elementary School is currently under construction. There are two new projects to replace Blair and College Park elementary schools, and they are scheduled to bid early next year. To save time and money, prototype school designs are being utilized as the basis for the new elementary school projects. Porters Neck Elementary School and the replacement school for College Park Elementary will utilize a modified version of the prototype design for Castle Hayne Elementary School, while the replacement school for Blair Elementary will be based on the prototype for Snipes Academy of Arts & Design. The new Blair Elementary School facility will include an auditorium, similar to the one at Snipes Academy, which will be shared with Noble Middle School.
Construction of Porters Neck Elementary School is proceeding on schedule and will be completed early 2017. Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, for a total of three school years, the Porters Neck facility will be utilized as a “swing site” for Blair Elementary during their building replacement project. Construction for the new Blair Elementary School is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017 and will be completed in early 2019. Upon completion, students will return to their new school and Porters Neck will open with its own population of students for the 2020-21 school year.
The building replacement project for College Park Elementary School is in the final stages of the design process and will bid early next year. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2017 and be completed in early 2019. The Sidbury Road facility will serve as a “swing site” for College Park Elementary School during construction. Construction will be completed and College Park students and staff will return to their new school for the start of the 2019-20 school year.
Additions and renovations are also planned for Wrightsville Beach Elementary School, which currently has more classes located in mobile units than are accommodated within the school building. In addition, classroom space is also leased from the adjacent Wrightsville Beach Baptist church. The additions and renovations will eliminate the mobile units and the need to lease classroom space, bringing everyone under one roof. Design and construction will be completed to permit the reopening of the school in August 2021.
During its construction phase, Wrightsville Beach Elementary will attend the new Blair Elementary facility for the 2019-2020 school year, while additions and renovations are completed at their school. Blair Elementary School will reopen with its own student population for the 2020-21 school year.
As you can see, many projects are well underway to improve our existing schools and to provide new facilities to meet the needs of a growing student population. We are very fortunate to have a phenomenal team of designers and contractors, and the NHCS Facility Planning & Construction staff overseeing all of these projects. Construction projects are always a challenge. The daily logistics of construction on active school sites is an even bigger challenge. These folks have not only met that challenge, but have also been able to keep projects on schedule and under budget.
The current bond is the first step to fulfilling NHCS’ facility needs. The state’s Facility Needs Survey that was completed in 2015 identified over $390 million in new construction, renovation and modernization needs. While we celebrate the success of the current bond program, many needs still exist and are unfunded. We must continue to find ways to fund projects to meet the growing population of students in our County, and to provide safe, efficient and educationally adequate facilities. We thank the citizens of New Hanover County for their support and the confidence they have entrusted in us to facilitate the success of all students!