The clock is ticking on the deadline to vacate Beverly Hills Elementary School, but the community isn’t done fighting to keep it open.
Encouraged by the results of a recent feasibility study conducted on the current school site in Concord by Morris Berg Architects, groups that have led the fight to save the school want the board of education to veto the vacate vote.
The Save our Schools (SOS) Leadership Committee that has continued to push for new schools for Beverly Hills, R. Brown McAllister and Coltrane-Webb elementary schools put together a presentation for school board members listing all of the reasons members feel students should be allowed to stay at their small, neighborhood school instead of being sent to Royal Oaks Elementary School.
Originally scheduled to close a year earlier, the school board voted to keep Beverly Hills open until June 2020. After that, the redistricting plan will go into effect and the students will attend Royal Oaks, unless they still want to participate in the STEM program and go to Winecoff Elementary.
However at the request of some members, the school board and county commissioners agreed to conduct this $20,000 feasibility study to determine if building a new school for the Beverly Hills community was a possibility.
In June 2018, Cabarrus County Schools Executive Director of Facilities Tim Lowder told the school board that it would cost about $21 million to rebuild a new school on the current Beverly Hills site and over $23.7 million to renovate the building.
When Todd Berg gave the results of his feasibility study early in May, he said construction costs of a new building for 500 students would be around $16 million. That cost does not include furniture, equipment and other fees.
After that presentation, members of Save Our Schools were ecstatic because of the lower estimation. Lee Shuman, one of the leaders of the group, said the feasibility study proves what SOS has been saying all along; a new Beverly Hills can be built on that site and it can be done without spending an extravagant amount of the county’s money.
“I was thrilled and everybody was trying to understand it because we didn’t see it beforehand. So everybody was trying to comprehend it as the night went on. But it was extremely positive,” Shuman said. “Our group met up outside (after the meeting) and everyone was really celebrating. This is the one thing we have fought for over the last two years. All we’ve ever wanted was an unbiased, third party feasibility study to tell us the truth and we got it.”
Now his goal is to get the board to revisit and reverse the decision to vacate the school at the end of next school year, since the feasibility study gave two options to rebuild. The group believes leaving students in the current building until a decision about a new school can be made will give the district capacity flexibility, cut transportation costs and ultimately save the county money.
The Veto the Vacate presentation claims that leaving those seats open at Royal Oaks instead of moving the Beverly Hills students there gives the district flexibility to handle unexpected issues at any of the other elementary schools. It also says transportation costs increase as distance grows between a school and its population center. So keeping the Beverly Hills students at their home school saves bus costs.
“I know that we need a new middle school for growth. I know that. I know that at some point in the future we are going to have a new high school. I understand that. But the people who have been paying taxes in this 28025 district and buying all those schools deserve to have their schools replaced and not closed,” Shuman said. “That’s really what it boils down to. Everybody’s tax dollars are weighted the same. We aren’t asking for a new $75 million high school, we are asking for a $19 million, tiny elementary school.”
The study is set to be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the Cabarrus County Board of Education meeting on Monday, June 3 and Shuman hopes board members will make the decision to work together with the Beverly Hills community now that the study has given other options.