By Ritchie Starnes, News Editor
Thursday, February 6, 2014 —
Next month the Stanly County Board of Education will again address the issue of redistricting and what to do about aging facilities as part of its long-term goal.
If Saturday’s daylong work session offered any indication, the tasks will be tough, perhaps controversial. School system administrators provided the board with an overview of the condition of each of the district’s 21 schools while also revisiting a 2012 study. That study revealed an analysis of where enrollment is increasing and decreasing as well as the district’s geographical challenges. It recommended a series of options designed to meet those challenges efficiently.
Before revisiting the data, board members first received an update on existing facilities and where impending capital costs will likely be required.
Board member Mitzi Almond suggested that the time had come for Stanly County Schools to look at building new facilities, instead of repeatedly repairing old ones or relying on unwanted modular units.
“We don’t have any state-of-the-art facilities,” Almond said.
Board member Melvin Poole reminded the board that county voters tend to resist passing bond referendums for new schools.
“We’ll probably be dead before the next bond passes,” Poole said.
In terms of pressing expenses, Mike Barbee said talk of funding new construction might not sit well with teachers who have been lobbying for pay raises.
“Teachers teach, buildings don’t,” Barbee said.
Among the challenges presented in the study, enrollment in existing schools in western Stanly County are growing as much as 2 percent annually, primarily due its proximity to Charlotte. Enrollment at schools in Albemarle and south are declining at 1 percent yearly.
The report shows that the district’s south region is larger, but with lower density. Morrow Mountain State Park poses a geographical challenge to the district’s northern and Albemarle boundaries.
Capacity at the district’s facilities is another challenge.
The study recommended six potential scenarios that address all of the system’s issues. Also, the data details the strengths and weaknesses of each scenario.
Two of the scenarios call for all of the schools to remain open, but offer no fiscal benefits.
Other options call for school closures and changes in the district’s feeder systems.
One scenario calls for the closure of Albemarle High School while another suggests South Stanly High School be closed.
School closures offer the best financial opportunities in terms of cost savings, but would require redistricting, according to the report.
In addition to the expense of keeping under utilized schools open, the board learned which schools are facing costly repairs in the near future.
Many of the schools face aging boiler systems used for heating that will likely need replacing or conversions to more efficient systems. Other various repairs include: updated building management systems, bleacher seats reinforced, new flooring, removal of asbestos tiles, cooling units, sprinkler systems, roofs, bathroom remodeling and meeting playground codes.
Plans call for all of the schools to undergo access control on exterior doors to prevent unauthorized entrance in an effort to maintain strict security measures.
Technology continues to expand within the school system where the Internet is available in each classroom. Chromebooks will soon be available to students.
School board members plan to meet again in March to further discuss redistricting and the prioritization of capital expenses.
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