Cabarrus County Schools is projected to grow between 400-600 students this school year, and with that growth comes the need for more schools and facilities. The district’s proposed capital plan includes almost $550 million to cover building new schools and repurposing aging buildings through 2027.
A draft of the plan— which includes building a new Northwest Cabarrus High School— was presented to the Cabarrus County Board of Education during its work session on Monday, Aug. 8. Of that estimated $548.5 million in projects over the next eight years, $168 million has already been funded by Cabarrus County commissioners to cover projects like the new West Cabarrus High School, Hickory Ridge Elementary School and costs associated with the new middle school being constructed to feed into Jay M. Robinson High School.
That leaves $380.5 million of the needs unfunded right now.
West Cabarrus and Hickory Ridge Elementary are set to open in 2020 and the new middle school has an estimated opening date of 2022.
Specifics about the capital plan
The plan was presented to the board by Brian Schultz, assistant of auxiliary services and Tim Lowder, executive director of operations. Schultz began the presentation by saying the capital plan is a snapshot of options for the district, but can always change in the future based on things like the economy growth and funding.
There are seven priorities the district includes in its capital plan development; funding, age of existing facilities, school boundaries and feeder patterns, growth projections, functionality, school capacity and land availability. During prior meetings, the board decided that the two most important things that impact the plan are funding and growth.
Schultz said those priorities help staff and the board determine the order of projects.
“We have to remember who are customers are in this work; the students, the families and the development. And I’m not just talking about economic development. Yes, that is super important, but it’s the civic development of our citizens in Cabarrus County,” Schultz said. “That’s why people want to move here, that’s why people want to live here and that’s why people want to raise their families here.”
Schultz added there are always other priorities to consider when moving forward with the capital plan such as federal legislation, impact to the community, repurposing old facilities and ensuring the district keeps both larger and smaller elementary schools.
“There is a fairly large body of research on that, which is really not compelling either way,” Schultz said. “A lot of times people will say larger schools are better or smaller schools are better. There is a large amount of research on that that doesn’t really say one is better than the other. It kind of depends on the study you look at.”
Lowder then went over the first eight years of the plan with include purchasing land for a new Northwest Cabarrus High School, possibly purchasing land for a new Coltrane-Webb Elementary School, constructing a new R. Brown McAllister Elementary School, purchasing land for a new Central Cabarrus High School and constructing the new R. Brown and Northwest Cabarrus. It also includes renovating existing facilities like the Mary Frances Wall Center, Beverly Hills Elementary School, the Glenn Center and the old R. Brown.
“We have an urgency to replace downtown schools. They are some of our most aged schools. Especially R Brown McAllister and Coltrane-Webb,” Lowder said. “And then also there’s this desire to increase the capacity of seats we have at those schools. Those are small schools. We can increase some capacity as well and relieve some other areas.”
By the numbers
- West Cabarrus High School: Opens in 2020 for 1,800 students. Relieves Jay M. Robinson, Central Cabarrus, Hickory Ridge High School, Cox Mill High School and Northwest Cabarrus High School
- Hickory Ridge Elementary School: Opens 2020 for 940 students. Relieves Harrisburg Elementary. Patriots Elementary, Rocky River Elementary and Pitts School Road Elementary.
- New middle school: Opens 2022 for 1,200 students. Feeder for Jay M. Robinson High School and relieves Harris Road Middle, Winkler Middle and Hickory Ridge Middle schools.
- New R. Brown McAllister: Opens in 2024 for 800 students. Constructed on-site and relieves Wolf Meadow and W.M. Irvin elementary schools.
- New Coltrane-Webb: Opens 2024 or 2026 depending on land opportunities. If build on-site it would be for 650 students. If land is purchase elsewhere it would be for 2026. Relieves Weddington Hills Elementary.
- Renovations for Beverly Hills. Depending on an upcoming board decision, renovations will be completed by 2023. Options for the building if the school is closed include a training center and administration offices.
- Northwest Cabarrus High School: Opens in 2025 or 2026 depending on funding for 1,800 students. Adds 500 seats to the district and relieves Cox Mill High School. Expands options for Northwest Middle School and new elementary school.
The capital plan is a working document and this draft is set to be discussed and possibly approved by the Cabarrus County Board of Education during its business meeting on Monday, Aug. 12.