Facilities study dictates repairs, other work needed throughout county
by Alan Hodge
Over the next five years, Union County Public Schools will need $110 million for additions, renovations, furniture and equipment.
Associate Superintendent of Building Operations Dr. Mike Webb and Facilities Department Executive Director Donald Hughes presented that shopping list to the Union County School Board on Tuesday, Jan. 4 by, in the form of the district’s new Facility Needs Survey.
Every five years, state law requires school systems to submit a Facility Needs Survey to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction. The deadline for the latest Union County schools survey is Monday, Jan. 10. The school board and county commissioners approved the survey Tuesday and sent it to state officials.
The Facility Needs Survey does not commit either the school board or county commissioners to funding or doing the work it contains, Webb and Hughes said.
“It is a report to the state,” Hughes said, “not a plan of action. We are just letting the state know what our needs are.”
“With no budget restraints,” Webb added.
The 11-page Facility Needs Survey given to the two county board Tuesday is a highly condensed version of a more comprehensive work. “The original is 3,000 pages long,” Hughes said.
The latest district Facility Needs Survey took two years but doesn’t include costs of buying land or constructing new schools.
The survey found $11.2 million in needs for Sun Valley High: $5.1 million for additions, $5.5 million for renovations and $441,000 for furniture and equipment. That’s the most of any Union County schools.
But “additions” did not always mean new classrooms, Webb said. “It could include space such as media centers.”
Looking even more into the future, the Facility Needs Survey for the next 6 to 10 years totaled $163.7 million, including $9.6 million for Central Academy of Technology and Arts, which will need $3.3 million for additions, $5.9 million for renovations and $285,000 for furnishings and equipment.
State budget dollars are not factored into the Facility Needs Survey, Hughes said.
“We get our capital dollars from the county,” Hughes said. “If the state should hold a bond referendum at some time, we might get some funding, and we might not.”
Hughes said he has not begun negotiating with county officials about facility needs for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
According to the Facility Needs Survey, growth in student population is one factor driving the costs. Survey projections for the next five years anticipate a K-12 enrollment of 42,884 students, compared to the current 39,057 students. The school district’s total current capacity is 44,737 students.
School officials expect the student population to reach 45,991 by the 2020-21 school year.
School improvement plans
Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Programs Dr. May Ellis and several of her colleagues presented the school board with information on school improvement plans at Tuesday’s meeting. The plans are tailored to the needs of each school.
“Not every plan will be the same,” Ellis said.
The school improvement plans use data on topics such as demographics and test scores to map out strategies for effective instructional practices with the goal of identifying students at risk of failing or dropping out of school.
The school board is scheduled to vote on the school improvement plans at its Feb. 5 meeting.