Guilford County leaders to discuss $2 billion plan to build and improve schools

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Guilford County Schools (WGHP file photo)

Data pix.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- On Thursday, Guilford County school board members met with county commissioners.

They're trying to figure out how to replace and repair more than a dozen schools.

The morning meeting was really a chance for the board of education members and county commissioners to talk to the consultant on how this would work.

A two-phase plan was unveiled, showing the possible priority projects for the school system.

But there's still a long way to go.

"What kind of learning environment are we providing for kids? How can we position ourselves to be competitive with other schools across the country," said Winston McGregor, member at-large for the board of education.

The $2 billion master plan for Guilford County Schools involves shutting down 13 schools, renovating and rebuilding others, and creating new ones, to make massive improvements to the Triad's largest school system.

The 13 schools that would close are:

  • Brown Summit Middle School
  • Cone Elementary School
  • Doris Henderson Newcomers School
  • Erwin Montessori
  • Hampton Elementary School
  • Madison Elementary School
  • Murphey Elementary School
  • Oak Hill Elementary School
  • Peeler Elementary School
  • SCALE-Greensboro/Twilight High School
  • Southern Elementary School
  • Sumner Elementary School
  • Wiley Elementary School

Another 11 administrative buildings would also close, including Merritt Drive Annex, Prescott Street Tech Department, Lees Chapel, Franklin Boulevard/Moen Transportation, Eugene Street, Laughlin Professional Center, Psychological Services, Market Street, Grimes Avenue Warehouse and Naco Road Maintenance.

McGregor says she believes it's an investment that will leave a legacy for students, and the jobs they'll hold after graduation.

"What happens in our schools and the investments, the kind of strategic investments we make, impacts everyone in Guilford County," she said. "How are we making sure the business community has a pipeline of talent that is learning in an environment that's like a real world."

But parents and their children are on the front line for these changes.

Some have concerns about such a high price tag.

"Why wouldn't you just come in with a smaller amount of money and just finish the job and do it right the first time," said Stephanie Mitchell, a Western Guilford High School mom.

She's worried the expenses are too high and not worth it, especially given the money already spent to try and fix up the schools.

"You need to be able to go into some of these buildings. For example, Western, structurally is a sound building," she said. "Why would you demolish the inside of it? Why would you waste all of that money that county commissioner have already given us to try and make it better?"

Page High School mom Michele Fox thinks some changes do need to be made.

"They need some facelifts. I think there does need to be money out there for the schools. The infrastructure is falling apart," she said.

But Fox wishes there was more clarity and communication about the plan.

"We all want the best situation for our children. We all want a good learning environment and a safe building," Fox said. "But how are we going to get there? There's a lot of steps to take from where we are now to where they're talking about. Five years? Ten years? Will they be able to make it work?"

There will be several other meetings before other decisions are made.

School board members and county commissioners did discuss potential ways to fund this project, including a possible property tax increase, sales tax or bond referendum.

McGregor says there are a lot of viable options and a half a cent sales tax could be the way to go.

"We are asking our state legislative delegation to work to provide some flexibility for us," she said. "So we can designate sales tax revenues for schools and school construction."

Chairman of the County Commissioners, Jeff Phillips says it's more likely that a bond referendum will be used to pay for the project.

"We'll have to move in a prudent manner, not only in regard to how much we can construct at any given time but how we're paying for it and the timing of which we issue the bonds," he said. "All of those bonds aren't issued at one time. They're issued in stages or sequentially, based on the pace of the project. It's not a straight line."

Phillips says one thing everyone on the committee can agree on is the timeliness and importance of fixing Guilford County schools.

"Just to be working so collaboratively, even though we may not agree on every point, even just to execute and implement, we all agree this is a priority and we're going to move forward with a sense of urgency," he said.

The next joint committee hearing will be on Jan. 21.

This is a list of the 22 schools that would be rebuilt under this proposal:

  • Allen Jay Elementary
  • Bessemer Elementary
  • Brooks Global Studies Elementary
  • Claxton Elementary
  • Foust Elementary
  • Frazier Elementary
  • Irving Park Elementary
  • Jackson 6-12 Preparatory Academy
  • Joyner Elementary
  • Kirkman Park Elementary (which would become a visual/performing arts magnet elementary school)
  • Kiser Middle
  • Millis Road Elementary
  • Montlieu Academy of Technology
  • Morehead Elementary
  • Northwood Elementary
  • Page High (on Cone Elementary School's site and moving the biomedical/health sciences academy to this school)
  • Peck  Elementary (which would become a regional expeditionary K-8 magnet school)
  • Southern High
  • Sternberger Elementary
  • Vandalia Elementary
  • Washington Elementary (as a K-8 computer science magnet school)
  • Weaver Academy

This is a list of the 19 schools, which are in the worst condition compared to the cost of replacement, slated for full renovations:

  • Newcomers School (Academy at Smith site)
  • Allen Middle
  • Alternative Programs (Weaver site)
  • Andrews High
  • Erwin Montessori (Archer site)
  • General Greene Elementary
  • Grimsley High
  • High Point Central High
  • Jones K-8 (with an addition)
  • Lincoln Academy 4-8
  • Early College High School Leadership Academy (Swann site)
  • Northeast High
  • Parkview Village Elementary
  • Penn-Griffen 6-12 VPA
  • Sedgefield Elementary
  • Shadybrook Elementary
  • Smith High
  • Welborn/Kearns 6-12
  • Western High

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