New athletic facilities, a larger dining area and a state-of-the-art library are among the 2014 education bond referendum projects now underway at New Hanover County’s four traditional high schools.
As outlined in the $160 million voter-approved measure, major improvements recently began at Hoggard, Laney and New Hanover, with some minor upgrades at Ashley, according to a local district spokeswoman. Those first two schools will get the biggest overhauls, including the addition of a 1,600-seat gymnasium at each campus. Hoggard’s and Laney’s existing gyms will remain in an auxiliary capacity for use by sports teams and physical education classes.
Hoggard will also see the expansion of its cafeteria and kitchen area, work district officials have deemed crucial to handling the current student population. Other upgrades include a more streamlined traffic flow for cars and walkers and renovations to building systems and infrastructure needs.
Since construction – set to wrap up by summer 2017 – has already closed the school’s parking lot on 41st Street, the two larger lots near Braswell Stadium will serve as assigned student and staff overflow parking and become the designated drop-off and pick-up points for parents. The driveway at the main entrance will now be for bus use only.
In addition to its new gym and some changes to its traffic flow, Laney will have a new media center come next summer, with the current one begin converted into classrooms. While the work will limit the amount of available student parking, it won’t require a change to any lots or patterns.
The same goes for New Hanover during changes to the George West building. Renovations are needed to meet the technology and infrastructure needs of the career technical education students and staff it houses.
The school’s Brogden Hall, home to Wildcats basketball games, will finally get air conditioning as part of some sweeping structural modifications to the building.
Although Ashley—the district’s newest high school—is in much better shape than other campuses, repairs have begun on mechanical controls to improve the efficiency of the heating and air system. That project won’t affect parking or traffic patterns.
The slate of high school upgrades are among the 14 projects local education leaders designated as high priority in the 2014 bond referendum. The largest undertaking is the construction of the Porters Neck Elementary School in Ogden to ease overcrowding at Wrightsville Beach Elementary and the northern part of the county.
In late 2014, county commissioners approved an 18-acre site off Edgewater Club Road for the planned campus, giving the go-ahead on the purchase of the $1.6 million property. Commissioners had previously agreed to fund the project regardless of the outcome of the bond measure.
The bond will also fund replacement of both Blair and College Park elementary schools, as well as a major overhaul at Wrightsville Beach Elementary. Each of the county’s middle schools are slated for renovations, and the district plans to implement systemwide safety and technology improvements, including the installation of security cameras at all schools and faster wireless and Internet access.
This is the priciest school bond referendum to date, surpassing the $125 million one in 1997 that paid for the construction of Parsley Elementary, Murray Middle and Ashley. A $123 million bond issue was passed in 2005 to build Castle Hayne Elementary and Holly Shelter Middle.
The final figure for the 2014 bond referendum was narrowed down from 25 improvement projects worth $280 million. According to the district, current facilities needs are in the $400 million range. But district officials had previously argued that as projected student enrollment continues to rise, some of those needs must be more immediately addressed. The district currently has an enrollment of approximately 26,000.
The bonds will be repaid over a 20-year period, with an average tax increase of 3 cents on the property tax rate.
Since construction will continue during the 2016-17 school year, the district will give parents more information regarding any impacts and temporary changes at Hoggard and Laney during orientations in August.
Updates on the high school projects and details of each bond item are available on the New Hanover County Schools website at the “Bond Project Updates” link under the “Items of Interest” tab.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.