Stanly school board, commissioners discuss new eastern high school, other changes

Published 3:22 pm Saturday, May 11, 2024

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At Wednesday’s joint meeting between the Stanly County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education, Stanly County Schools presented a plan to commissioners regarding a new high school, elementary school and other changes.

According to information at the meeting, the first phase of the plan would merge Albemarle, North and South high schools into one eastern Stanly high school with a capacity of approximately 1,400 students.

Albemarle Middle would move into the current Albemarle High School building and East Albemarle Elementary would move into the Albemarle Middle School building across the street.

Also in the first stage of the plan would be a new 600-student elementary school in Oakboro in the area behind the existing STEM school. The new school would have both the regular and STEM elementary educational tracks available.

While the two new schools are to be built, the West Stanly High School football field would move where the track teams currently compete, and the tennis courts would move as well.

In the second phase, a new West Stanly High School would be built on the current football stadium.

SCS Chief Technology Officer Shawn Britt presented information about the last time updates were done to schools in the SCS system. According to the presentation, the last updates on elementary schools are Aquadale (2009), Central (2007), Endy (2024), Locust (2009), Norwood (2015) and Stanfield (2000).

Elementary schools with updates prior to 2000 include Badin (1916 and 1959), East Albemarle (1975), Millingport (1952 and 1979), Oakboro STEM Choice (1926 and 1974) and Richfield (1920, 1976 and 1999).

Three of Stanly’s middle schools (North, South and West) opened their doors in 2002, with Albemarle Middle opening in 2003.

The current high school facilities’ construction dates and last upgrades included the following: Albemarle (built 1960, upgraded 1999), North Stanly (built 1962, upgraded 1987), South Stanly (built 1961, upgraded 1966) and West Stanly (built 1961, upgrades in 1967, 1986 and 1996).

Commission Chairman Bill Lawhon said he had heard or read East Albemarle would be torn down to build a new high school, to which school board chair Carla Poplin said she “did not know any way there would be” to put a high school there.

“To that same effect, a lot of people think everyone that is at West is going to stay at West now and the other three are going to go together, and there will be a lot more kids at that one,” Poplin said. “That’s not necessarily the case … lines will have to move.”

Regarding West Stanly, Britt said the expanded N.C. Highway 24-27, which was a two-lane road when he attended the school, has “made the capacity to traverse the county, whether with buses or parents bringing their kids to school, much easier. So it presents a time and opportunity for us, with the improvements we’ve made, to look at some of what we are talking about.”

When the subject of reopening Ridgecrest was mentioned by Commissioner Peter Asciutto, school board member Dustin Lisk said, “I don’t think this board is talking about opening Ridgecrest.”

In a recent report presented by the school board from Pinnacle Architecture, the projected cost to open Ridgecrest was around $9 million.

Lisk said the conversation between board members regarding the plan involved the question, “How do you create choice across the county while districting into the school?”

Ascuitto asked how the plan helped Badin, Richfield or some of the older schools.

“This is why I asked to get a consultant,” Asciutto said.

Lisk called another study “paralysis by analysis.” He later said SCS has had four studies in the last 19 years.

Poplin said the plan was not “thrown together.”

“That’s insulting … this has long been discussed and talked about.”

School board member Bill Sorensen said East Albemarle Elementary is “one of those buildings you’re kind of stuck with what you’ve got.”

County Manager Andy Lucas addressed the costs of the initial phase of the plan, saying the costs of the first stage would probably be close to $200 million, with the costs going “well over” $300 million if another high school like a new West Stanly was included.

Lucas said a bond “does not pass if you don’t throw another high school in there because I just don’t think it does.”

He said the county has to look at the plan “in the whole context of what we have got to do,” mentioning a $13 million jail expansion which he said was in the works.

Lucas said the process includes hiring a financial consultant to look at all the facilities and seeing what the projected growth in ad valorem tax revenue would be. The process also would include obtaining a bond rating from agencies in New York. All total, he added, “there is at least a year’s worth of work before this can even be contemplated.”

Poplin said the school board has discussed school plans for a year and a half.

“We’ve been talking about a facilities plan and a possible bond, so you guys haven’t done any homework on your side,” Poplin said.

Asciutto said the commissioners had “never gotten all the questions with answers from our joint committee.”

Lucas said it was only in the last three to four months the county had “found out what kinds of money we are talking about … to say that we’re dragging our feet is an inaccurate statement.”

He later said the debt service on a $190 million bond would be “north of $7 million a year” including interest.

Beyond the plan for the new eastern high school, Asciutto asked what the plans for the North and South high school buildings would be. Lisk said the plan would be to tear down both and sell the properties. He said the board has received interest in the North Stanly property.

“I think the board doesn’t want to have buildings sitting there that we have to maintain that are not used,” Lisk said.

Poplin said a tractor-trailer tire recently came off a truck passing by North Stanly High.

“That school is right on the highway,” she said. “I don’t want to put middle schoolers there.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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