Stanly County plan would open door to new high school structure

The Stanly County Board of Education decided upon a direction for how the high school landscape may look in the future, along with a new elementary school and other changes.

At Tuesday’s work session, the board voted 6-1 to approve a two-phase plan which includes a new 1,400-student high school in the eastern part of Stanly County and a new Oakboro elementary school. Board member Bill Sorensen voted against the motion.

The new eastern high school would replace Albemarle, North Stanly and South Stanly high schools, which the information presented said would “replace three of the oldest schools.”

In the first phase of the plan, the outdoor athletic facilities at West Stanly would change. A new football stadium would be built currently where the Colts run track. The baseball and softball facilities would be moved closer to the proposed new stadium.

West Stanly would get a new high school in the second phase of the plan in the space currently occupied by the existing football and softball fields along with the tennis courts. The current building would be demolished in order to build a new parking lot for the new high school building.

Robin Whitaker, chair of the SCS Facilities Committee, said the school system “does not currently have land to build any schools.”

Board member Dustin Lisk said the facilities committee’s opinion of an eastern high school was based on the 2005 study noting East Albemarle Elementary was in the worst shape.

Lisk said spending $4 million to renovate and reorganize East Albemarle would still leave the same issues of an older building.

“It just seems to make more sense to build one new high school and bring the other schools in with redistricting,” Lisk said.

He said Albemarle Middle School would then move into the current high school building, and East Albemarle Elementary would move to the Albemarle Middle School building, which is right across the street from the current elementary location.

“Now we’ve got a campus at East that we can sell, and if you bulldoze the building, it’s still a prime piece of real estate,” Lisk said.

Board chair Carla Poplin said she thought the property would be “a great spot for a county or city facility.”

Whitaker said the plan the board chose would “free up more buildings” for the school system.

Sorensen said in a phone interview following Tuesday’s meeting he was against the new eastern Stanly high school plan because of its size.

“I’ve done quite a bit of research on school size and applications,” he said. “What the research says is that high school sizes over 900, you gain course offerings but you lose academics and you also tend to abandon the kids with the most vulnerabilities.”

Sorensen said the proposed school, if built in three years, would be at 1,450 and over capacity, according to a recent study of how student population in Stanly is trending.

A graduate of and former educator at South Stanly High, Sorensen said “a community school model allows for kids that otherwise slip through the cracks to get caught.”