By Yustin Riopko
INDIAN TRAIL – Improvements planned for Sun Valley High School will require more time and money than the 2016 bond allows, according to Union County Public Schools facilities director David Burnett.
David Burnett, the district’s facilities director, updated the Board of Education’s facilities committee on July 25 of changes to Sun Valley’s rennovation project.
While some things like new classrooms and HVAC/plumbing improvements are still in the plan, some of the original vision has been altered. Notably, UCPS is changing the specs on a new athletic field and there are no longer plans to renovate the auditorium.
UCPS had a two-phase plan. If it had panned out, the first phase would be happening right now. However as Burnett explained, bids for the construction work were much higher than the budget allowed.
“We needed to look at modifications to the scope of work and materials,” the facilities director said. “And also, we needed to plant the seed that this project is undoubtedly going to need additional funding.”
In November 2016, Union County voters passed a $54 million bond for improvements at seven schools.
One way the school system hopes to lower the cost of the Sun Valley project is by combining the two phases, increasing the amount of bidders and raising competition. Another is by reassessing the blueprints.
“We have had a great effort in identifying our possible savings – cost reductions, material changes, constructability reviews,” Burnett said. “And all that is trying to reduce the overall expected bid cost by several million dollars.”
Some school board members were concerned that Sun Valley isn’t getting improvements other district schools of similar size and age are getting. Burnett reassured them these facility improvements weren’t out of the question for the high school – just out of this bond’s budget.
Board members also discussed the best size for the athletic stadium.
Melissa Merrell, who chairs the school board, wondered if it would really be worth it to build the field and bleachers at a 4A size (the largest size school within the North Carolina High School Athletic Association) when it would probably never get bigger than 3A.
Committee member Kathy Heintel thinks the school’s trajectory is hard to predict.
“It’s such a hard thing because the 4A is based upon the top whatever percent of schools, so it’s not a specific number of enrollment – it’s a moving target,” Heintel said. “What we think that Sun Valley will look like over the next five years, 10 years, doesn’t seem that they will be [4A], but it’s too hard to know. If public schools’ enrollment is dropping across the state, then it could be … Or do you not build it to that, and then in 10 years Indian Trail’s going crazy and the school should’ve been 4A?”
Because of the project delay, nothing is expected to happen at Sun Valley High School until at least October.