$49 million for 2 new schools

Published 12:40 pm Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For right now, it’s just a plan

By Alyse Stanley

Staff Writer

Isle of Wight County is planning to add two new schools by 2026, according to the School Board’s capital improvements plan approved Thursday. Projected population growth in the northern end of the county threatens to overcrowd schools, the document reads, but the Board hopes to address that problem before it occurs.

The plan details proposed projects and their corresponding budgets for fiscal years 2017 through 2026. Two of the most costly items in the document are a 750-student elementary school and a 1,300-student middle school totaling $49 million, not including the price of land.

Financing would be through the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, said Anthony Hinds, division manager of financial services and procurement.

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Last year, Isle of Wight County Administrator Anne Seward and former Superintendent Dr. Katrise Perera talked about plans for the schools, said Hinds. They were added to the plan as a “placeholder,” he said, as well as to alert current superintendent, Dr. Jim Thornton, of future needs.

Thornton came to Isle of Wight in July from Mecklenburg County.  {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″} 

“It’s our way to communicate what we need in the future,” said Hinds.

In preparation, the division intends to do a facilities study and look at plans to build the new schools.

Planning for the middle school would begin in the fiscal year 2017-18, as described in the capital improvement plan for a total of $27 million.  

The new middle school would replace Smithfield Middle School, allowing Smithfield High School to expand into the existing building, said Hinds. Not only would this solve the high school’s anticipated overcapacity problem, but the additional room would also allow for new STEM, athletic and ROTC programs.

Building a new middle school is cheaper than renovating the older Smithfield High School, said Hinds, and would eliminate any issues with land acquisition since it would not be tied to a specific location.

Currently the school division’s plan prioritizes the new middle school, to be followed by the elementary school pending population growth and change, he said.

The proposed 100,000 square foot elementary school is expected to cost $22 million, with completion scheduled for 2026, according to the capital improvement plan.

To keep Westside Elementary School below capacity, the school system would return to the traditional middle school model of grades 6-8, read the document.

Also included in the capital improvement plan are estimates for a $750,000 addition to the bus garage at Poorhouse Road, $3 million for surveying and remedying Hardy Elementary School’s sewer system and $3 million for a new central office building. Upgrades to Smithfield High, including updating the HVAC systems and addressing infrastructure needs, were budgeted as well at $9 million.

The proposed plans for the new schools will be discussed during the annual drafting of the county’s capital improvement plan, Hinds said. {/mprestriction}