New school plan killed

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 05:53 PM

High Pointers seeking a $40 million renovation of crowded Central High School took home one victory Tuesday.
The Guilford County Board of Education voted 8-3 to neither buy land nor to build a proposed $72 million high school near Piedmont Triad International Airport. Citizens for Central group members who stayed for the late vote voiced support with audible “thanks” and soft applause.
The decision leaves open a chance for some of the money to go to renovations at Central. But parents at other schools also have voiced needs the $72 million could pay for.
“I don’t think there will be $40 million for Central,” board member Ed Price of High Point said during the discussions. “We do need to take care of the needs we have now.”
“How many high schools have cafeteria space for only 150 students?” said board member Carlvena Foster of High Point. “We have a lot of needs at Central. I can’t support now buying land for a new school.”
So far, the group has proposed cafeteria and media center renovations and moving students from the adjoining magnet Academy at Central to another location to gain 12 classrooms.  Moving students to nearby T.W. Andrews High to relieve crowding is so far not part of the plan. With an enrollment of 760, Andrews High is as much as 500 students below maximum design capacity, according to the latest estimates. 
“I just don’t think it’s prudent to buy land if we’re not sure where we want to build a school,” said board member Darlene Garrett, who made the motion. “I can’t support going forward with this school when we have other needs.”
The project was intended to relieve crowding at Northwest High, which has 27 mobile classrooms, Western and Southwest high schools. Enrollment growth slowed during the recession, however.
“We planned well, but things have changed,” said Chairman Alan Duncan. “I have not heard advocacy for a school near the airport. I have struggled over this.”
The district needs $1.2 billion for renovations, new schools and additions over the next 10 years, according to a 2011 master plan.  High Point Central is on the list for a renovation or expansion costing as much as $41 million, Western High for as much as $33 million in upgrades and Smith High for an expansion or replacement of as much as $28 million.
Central parents also want their school at the top of the next bond referendum list that could pay for renovations listed in the plan. 
The bonds that would have paid for the new high school have not been sold. Board member Jeff Belton worried that the Republican dominated Board of Commissioners may not approve bonds for renovations voters did not approve in 2008.
“Commissioners may not sell another bond for anything,” he said.
“We have to hope that commissioners recognize that voters approved money for schools,” Price said.
The school board could buy land for a new school, however, using money leftover from other construction projects. Superintendent Mo Green suggested setting aside  $10 million to $12 million for a school site.
“We don’t want to miss a good deal if we can get one,” Price said.

How they voted

• For: Board members Ed Price and Carlvena Foster of High Point and Darlene Garrett, Rebecca Buffington, Amos Quick, Alan Duncan, Linda Welborn, Sandra Alexander.
• Against: Board members Jeff Belton, Nancy Routh and Deena Hayes