GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — The Guilford County school system is waiting for commissioners to approve and secure funding for nine schools chosen as priority construction projects.
The current priority projects are:
- Northwood Elementary – kitchen renovation/expansion ($639,225)
- Dudley High School – new traffic pattern ($750,000)
- Northwest High School – new traffic pattern ($1,156,200)
- Hunter Elementary School- replacement school ($14,812,285)
- High Point Central High School – addition/renovation ($12,338,890)
- Smith High School – athletic renovation ($5,282,476)
- Western High School – addition/ renovation ($6,001,437)
- Bluford Elementary School - renovation ($7,780,151)
- Guilford Middle School – replacement school ($30,263,459)
When asked how the school system and school board comes up with that priority list, Executive Director of Facilities Julius Monk said it’s more than just how much projects cost.
“We look at the capacity of the school, the age of the school, and the existing conditions at the schools,” Monk explained.
The nine projects total nearly $80 million. They have to consider which ones have issues violating state and county codes, whether safety is threatened and whether there is adequate space for education and programs.
“It’s very difficult to narrow it down,” Monk pointed out. “With 126 schools, they are all a priority to us. But again, we have to look at safety first, then what we’re required to do by the code. And then finally what it’s going to take so students have adequate space for their program at the school.”
GCS Chief Financial Officer Angie Henry explained why, this year, county commissioners are considering using a line of credit to fund these projects before selling bonds.
“If you’ve sold bonds and you’ve got the money sitting in the bank not getting used, you’re really paying more interest than you’re earning,” she said.
Henry said big dollar projects like these priority nine are vital, but they could also use more money for maintenance.
“We’re dealing a lot with just emergency situations, like a leaky roof where we just can’t patch it anymore,” she explained. “Roofing projects, paving projects, the kind of things required just to keep the buildings we have functional. Those dollars don’t go very far.”
Ten years ago the school system received $11 million for maintenance-type repairs. Now they receive about $2 million, according to information provided by the school system.
In that same time frame, the number of total square feet the system maintains increased from about 9.5 million square feet to more than 12 million square feet.
Monk said a couple of years ago, the school system identified about one billion dollars of need throughout Guilford County Schools. “This $80 million will just scratch the surface,” he said. But it’s a start they are excited about.
Commissioners are also working to come up with a formula that will help the county and the school system predict available funds year-to-year.
Henry said that method could be helpful if done with sufficient base numbers.
“If we can start with a good base I would appreciate to be able to predict funding year to year,” she said.
Thursday, commissioners are expected to consider approving funds to move forward with the design phase of each of the nine projects. They would later have to approve funds to move forward with construction.