BOE applies for Needs-Based school grant
SPRUCE PINE – The Mitchell County Board of Education during its regular meeting at Mayland Early College this past week unanimously approved a decision to begin the process of applying for the Needs-Based Public School Grant.
The purpose of the grant would be for the eventual construction of a new school and infrastructure improvements.
The board also announced the formation of an appointed nine-member committee to review policies, procedures and communication of the American Red Cross blood drives on campuses. All blood drives have been temporarily suspended until the committee finishes the review and reports to the board.
The board also reviewed and unanimously approved Mayland Early College’s school improvement plan. The plan did require any financial support from the board.
Executive Director of Facilities Kim Hodshon described the Needs-Based Grant to the board, which would give the county $15 million of state money. To get the funding, the county would have to contribute $5 million of its own money, which would come from an interest-free or low-interest loan paid for through the county’s capital fund.
Superintendent Chad Calhoun said he thinks the county needs to at least try to get the grant.
“We know Mitchell County citizens can’t afford to build a school,” he said. “We know we can’t do that with a tax increase or a bond referendum. I think we’d do our citizens a disservice by not applying to try to get it.”
Calhoun said the grant is an attractive option for funding the new construction because it does not place a burden on the taxpayers.
“We’re asking the citizens for absolutely nothing,” Calhoun said. “That’s our goal.”
Calhoun said his main concern with the county’s ability to get the grant is that in 2015, the Mitchell County needs assessment that was entered by administration suggested a seventh- and eighth-grade wing be added to Mitchell High.
“I’m hoping that don’t say ‘you told us in 2015 that you didn’t need a school, you needed a wing,’” Calhoun said. “I don’t think that’s feasible at the high school. We have trouble with traffic there now and I don’t think parents want seventh and eighth graders on that campus.”
There is a spot in the grant application where an explanation can be given about why that suggestion has changed since 2015.
“The odds of us getting this grant are slim,” Calhoun said. “But, I think we have to try.”
The $15 million grant with a match of $1 for every $3 od grant money is available only for Tier 1 school systems, which Mitchell County is until January 2018.
“We are one of the few school systems in the west who is a Tier 1,” Calhoun said. “There are many, many out east. I’m hoping they look at it and say, ‘let’s give the east one and the west one.’”
Board chair Angela Burleson agreed with Calhoun that the school system needs to try for the grant and added she wants to see serious infrastructure progress in the county’s schools.
The application deadline is Oct. 11 and grants will be awarded Nov. 1.
“We stand to lose nothing except some time and energy,” Burleson said. “If we get it, it costs the taxpayers nothing. That’s not a burden I could put on the taxpayers. It has all fallen into place and it feels like it’s our time. We need to do something and we know we do. These buildings will not last forever and I’m tired of putting Band-Aids on the buildings and the programs.”