CONCORD— Beverly Hills Elementary School will remain open until June 2020.

During its meeting Thursday, the Cabarrus County Board of Education committed to keeping the doors open until that date and to allowing an outside firm to review its current site to see if it is possible to build a new neighborhood school.

But the board also made it clear that while they will do a study to look at the possibility of rebuilding the school several other items on the 10-year plan take precedence, including a new middle school and a new/replacement high school.

Finally making a decision

This decision was made during a meeting on Thursday, June 28. Board Chair Cindy Fertenbaugh began by thanking all of the parents, neighbors and supporters who have continuously spoken out against the closure and provided input.

She then gave a breakdown of the ways schools in the county are funded.

“I’m sure many of you don’t know, we have none of our own money. We can’t tax or raise money, it all comes from other sources. The bulk is from the state, then local and last federal,” she said. “The state requires counties to provide facilities, utilities and other maintenance costs and when the state has budget challenges, they adjust their support. The general public doesn’t see that.”

Fertenbaugh told the audience that when the district grows the county must fund extra space and buses, and that the district currently has between 4,000-5,000 children learning in mobile units.

“Some schools have more mobile units than the entire capacity of Beverly Hills. It’s a balancing act,” Fertenbuagh said. “I hope you each know we have listened, talked for countless hours and prayed for wisdom in this.”

Following her introduction, Board Member Barry Shoemaker gave some background on the issue. He also thanked people for their support and said he knows each of them has a real heart for Beverly Hills and the community, which is what makes Cabarrus County a great place to live.

Shoemaker added the board struggled with this issue for many months trying to decide the best and most appropriate way to deal with growth problems and the aging schools problem.

“We’ve been accused of not keeping up Beverly Hills that staff has not done a good job with maintaining that school and that’s just the opposite. Over 1,992 work requests have been made for that school. Of that 1,989 have been completed. We have tried to do everything we can within the monetary power that we have to maintain that school to the best we can,” Shoemaker said. “However those work requests cannot replace systems that continue to age.”

He said Beverly Hills has a boiler that was installed in 1986 and is still operating, a chiller that was installed in 1998 and electrical wiring that dates back to 1953.

“Part of what we are concerned about, the staff and us as a board are concerned about, is that fact that if we have a major system failure during the school year then we have to do something with the students because the fix that will be required to take care of that issue, we would have to move the students somewhere else because it would not be an immediate fix or a day or two. It would take several weeks to resolve those issues,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve talked about could we make it last a year longer, we don’t know.”

After his explanation Shoemaker provided a proposal that closed the doors of the school in June 2019, but kept the Beverly Hills students together at a swing school will a site plan and study was completed. It was seconded by Board Member David Harrison.

When it came time for discussion Board Member Vince Powell, who attended the meeting via cell phone, said he could not support this motion because of the word “close.”

“I don’t support the proposal as presented because it very clearly in the first point closes Beverly Hills. No matter where you put those students and what combination you provide for them, I still believe closing Beverly Hills in this manner will not result in anything productive done on that site. I think once Beverly Hills is closed it will be closed for good,” Powell said. “I don’t support this because it closes Beverly Hills and it won’t reopen after that. I would however support every other point. I think everything else could be accomplished without closing that school.”

Carpenter provides a counter proposal

To counter Shoemaker’s proposal, Board Vice Chair Carolyn Carpenter put her own one on the table. She began by respectively disagreeing with two of the points Shoemaker made regarding old schools.

She said that his argument about system failures at Beverly Hills wasn’t valid because that could happen at Coltrane-Webb, R. Brown McAllister or even a younger school.

“We all know that we did have a situation where we had a younger school, the system went out on that and we had to deal with that. It could happen any time,” she said. “I’ve also heard ‘Oooh it’s 65-years-old and it’s ready to put out to pasture.’ Well honey I’m 65-years-old and I’m not going out to pasture. So let’s not use that one either.”

For her motion, Carpenter proposed that the district keep Beverly Hills open and get a third-party assessment for renovation on the current site for a 400-seat school. She also proposed to leave it a community STEM school, put it on the 10-year Capital Plan and add the school to the Cropper GIS Consulting redistricting committee.

The audience responded to Carpenter’s motion with cheers.

“We are going to keep it a school is basically what I’m saying,” Carpenter said.

Board Member Rob Walter and Powell seconded the motion.

Collaborating on a final proposal

After Carpenter gave her proposal, Fertenbaugh said it sounded like the two motions were basically the same except for the completion dates. Carpenter said the difference is the first motion used the word “closure.”

“This (her motion) is not saying I’m going to close their school. No that’s not the same thing. I’m not doing the formal closure of the school,” Carpenter said. “Basically I think we’ve heard loud and clear from the parents that it’s okay to move the students while they are building the school and they are okay with that.”

Then Fertenbaugh asked Carpenter where she would suggest the district move the students during the rebuilding process, saying she doesn’t think any of the elementary schools have that kind of space.

“We’ve got to wait to see what this realignment does. We’ve got to see what we’re looking at and see where we are standing at that time,” Carpenter responded. “Unlike some people, I don’t want to promise something I can’t keep.”

Fertenbaugh also expressed concern over the 400-seat proposal since she said commissioners have asked that any construction address the lack of seats and growth issue.

After more discussion, Carpenter said she could be convinced to go to 500. Walter also added that the district is currently building a new elementary school in Harrisburg that will relieve the mobile units at Harrisburg Elementary School and Patriots STEM Elementary.

However, when it came time to vote, the motion failed 3-4 with members Robert Kirk, David Harrison, Shoemaker and Fertenbuagh dissenting.

That took the board back to the discussion on Shoemaker’s original motion which he said he would be willing to amend.

“Originally when we started talking about this my thinking was around trying to cut through to June 2020. I didn’t feel like it was much longer and we could do it. I would be willing to adjust this motion to keeping it open to June 30, 2020 and not add it to the realignment because if we add it to the realignment, when we close it in two years that would be a crutch. Then ask Cropper to keep the space at Royal Oaks as a swing just in case. Although us to get this into the 10-year plan. It would be basically everything we started in our motion except changing the date to 2020.”

After talking it out for a few more minutes, the board decided to take the word “closure” out of the motion and replace it with “vacate” and change the date to June 2020.

Below is the motion that was approved:

The approved site review and replacement proposal

The goal of the proposal is to keep the Beverly Hills student population together while the viability of a new facility on the school’s property is determined and, if viable, prioritized for funding.

1. Approve the temporary vacating of the current site effective June 2020

- Move students while there is the ability to swing the school together, maintain the majority of open Royal Oaks capacity for a Beverly Hills swing school

- Winecoff is expected to be the STEM option

- Avoid the potential of a mid-year move to multiple sites

- Accomplish operational savings and avoid on-going maintenance expenses

2. Begin a review and site plan high-level design in January 2019, commissioned by the school board with an outside firm with goals to achieve the following:

- Review costs not to exceed $20,000, request to be on the commissioner’s August agenda for funding approval

- Design mist achieve a minimum of 25 percent building core capacity growth-or- it must meet current building capacity and provide space for other district functions sich as the technology department

- Provide an estimate of building a new facility on the previous BHES site

3. Based on the results of the review:

- If the goals for capacity/space are achievable, and if the CCS average daily membership (ADM)numbers can accommodate not building a new elementary school for greater growth seats, place a new BHES on the 10-year capital plan

- Based on the county’s preference to fund portions of a construction project over multiple years, begin site preparation as soon as funded with new building construction to start on or after July 2022 with a two-year construction schedule (based on a cleared site)

- The priorities remain to full fund one new middle school and the expanded R. Brown McAllister and obtain land for an expanded/replacement high school prior to funding the BHES project

4. Designate funding:

- The passage of the state school construction bond or the quarter-cent sales tax increase, with proceeds to be used for county and school construction needs, must be achieved to further delay in achieving the 10-year Capital Plan

- The board of education, together with the county commissioners, will make the final determination on the funding priorities and distribution to meet capacity needs.

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