GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — It’s a part of a building that’s dear to his heart.
Dr. Julius Monk grew up in a small town in southeastern North Carolina.
Specifically, Warsaw, population 2,733 in Duplin County. You’ve probably driven by the exit for it along Interstate 40 the last time you drove to Wilmington.
“My mom was an exceptional children’s teacher (in Duplin County) for many, many years,” Monk told me as we walked through the construction site of a brand new $50+ million school. “And to know that they (the children) are going to have a space that is built especially for them warms my heart.”
He was referring to a set of first floor classrooms in what will be the new Claxton Elementary School in west Greensboro. The learning spaces for first grade, pre-kindergarten and exceptional children with disabilities will occupy a large section in the front of the school. It will even have its own playground out front.
“When students walk in here next fall, they’re going to be in a building that’s brand new, state of the art and one that will give them the environment where they’re ready to learn,” he added.
This isn’t old territory.
Monk became the Guilford County School System’s assistant superintendent of business and operations in June after spending more than four years as a deputy superintendent in Durham.
But before Durham he spent more than 10 years in Greensboro as the Guilford County School System’s director of construction and operations.
“I knew the people I was going to get to work for and the families that I was going to get to work with,” he told me when I asked why he came back. “And anytime you get to do something as great as run a $2 billion bond campaign, that’s a great opportunity, a great challenge.”
It is, in fact, the largest bond package for school construction and renovation in Guilford County’s history.
The nearly two billion is the total of two separate bond packages voters approved in 2020 and 2022. The packages call for rebuilding and rehabbing 44 schools and building seven new ones from scratch.
Claxton is one of the rebuilds. It’s replacing a recently demolished 1960’s-era building that once stood on the same site off Pinetop Road. The school system decided months ago it was more feasible and economical to tear it down than renovate it.
Claxton is also among six brand new schools currently under construction in Guilford County that Monk is overseeing. Each is replacing an old, aging structure that had been neglected far too long.
The numbers of students at many of them had grown so much, mobile classrooms were brought in.
“It definitely (added) a sense of urgency to me to make sure that we have a plan moving forward that moves all our students into brick and mortar buildings,” he told me.
Of the six under construction, Claxton will be the first to open when students walk in the front door in the fall of 2024.
Here are the other schools being rebuilt, a little bit about them, their projected costs and projected completion dates.
Peck Expeditionary Learning Elementary School:
This will replace the current Peck Elementary on West Florida Street. The new building is being built directly behind the old school which will be demolished. The new school will be capable of educating 900 children in grades Pre-K through 8.
Projected cost: $78,737.396.00 Projected completion: mid-year 2025
Kiser Middle School:
This will replace the current Kiser off Benjamin Parkway. It’s being built in an area behind the current campus (which will be demolished) where the Grimsley High School baseball fields are now.
Projected cost: $81,183,471.00 Projected completion: mid-year 2025
Brooks Global Studies Elementary Magnet School:
This will replace the current Brooks Global off Westover Terrace (which will be demolished to make room for replacements for Grimsley’s baseball fields.) The new Brooks is being built on school system property at 400 Ashland Drive across from the Greensboro Arboretum.
Projected cost: $39,024,760.00 Projected completion: mid-year 2025.
Foust Gaming and Robotics Elementary Magnet School:
This will replace the old Foust Elementary School and will be built on the same site off Floyd Street in South Greensboro. It will be among the first robotics and gaming elementary schools in the country.
Projected cost: 59,936,861.00 Projected completion: mid-year 2025
Hampton-Peeler Visual and Performing Arts Elementary Magnet School:
This will replace the former Peeler Open and Hampton Elementary Schools which were damaged by the east Greensboro tornado in 2018. It’s being built on the former Peeler Open site off Randall Street.
Projected cost: 69,375,621.00 Projected completion: mid-year 2026
Monk says rising construction costs since the bond packages were approved have been the biggest challenges. In January, Guilford County Commissioners approved an extra $45 million to get the new Kiser and Claxton schools built.
For the rest of those currently under construction (all of which are running over original projected costs), Monk says the county and the school system are working together closely to approve and spend extra money for each school in chunks instead of all at once.
“It’s an investment not only in the students’ future, but in the taxpayer’s future because the better we educate our students the better citizens they’re going to be on graduation day,” he said. “We (the
schools) are the greatest investment and infrastructure project that any county or any city is going to have.”
Sounds like a heart-felt approach to me.