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WSFC Schools eye about $550 million in upgrades with possible bond money

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is eyeing November 2016 for putting a bond referendum before voters for improvements. On Wednesday, administrators laid out a comprehensive plan for replacements, renovations and fixes that total a little more than $550 million.

If every option were approved as part of the bond the district could add a new elementary school, four new middle schools and hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements at schools across the district.

Administrators have broken down the improvements into four options. Option 1 is the most comprehensive and includes every need from elementary school to high school to the tune of $552 million.

Option 2 addresses where the district is growing and which buildings are the oldest. It focuses on expanding capacity at elementary and middle schools and would cost about $333 million.

Option 3 would focus bond money on early education improvements and would total about $284 million.

Option 4 could divert money into middle schools to help with capacity issues within the 6th-8th grades. That option would total $268 million.

All four options share about $150 million in core needs that include the replacement of Konnoak Elementary and Lowrance Middle schools. Bond money is also being eyed for improvements at Kennedy High School and the relocation of Hanes Magnet School and Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy. A new middle school to deal with overpopulation and new media centers to replace libraries at every school are also part of the top priorities.

“I think what the board will do is take time and look at all the different proposals within the options and we understand that sometimes we're going to have to make decisions,” said board member Elisabeth Montsinger.

A school bond was last approved by Forsyth County voters in 2006. It originally called for $422 million in school improvement needs and but was scaled back to $250 million.

The school district said it will use a lengthy public comment period from now through the fall.

“Those are the ideas we thought of but certainly we don't have the only ideas -- there are a lot of smart people in our community,” said Theo Helm, Chief of Staff for the school district.