BREAKING NEWS: County awarded $15 million for new school
LEDGER – Mitchell County Schools has been awarded a $15 million Needs-Based Public School Capital grant for the construction of a new school for third through eighth-grades, Mitchell County Schools Superintendent Chad Calhoun and North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson have announced.
Mitchell County’s funding is part of $141 million in grant funding distributed to “economically distressed” areas throughout the state. McDowell and Ashe County Schools were also among the 13 districts selected as funding recipients.
“Through these grants, we will help address our state’s need to replace old, outdated schools with better learning environments,” Johnson said. “This is the second year these funds have been made available to benefit our students and educators who have had to deal with outdated facilities.”
Mitchell County Schools applied for the needs-based grant in 2017 and received word via email in November the county did not receive the funding.
At a joint meeting in September between the Mitchell County Board of Education and the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners, the commissioners unanimously approved a decision to allow the school board to pursue the grant.
Mitchell County Schools will contribute $5 million of its own money as a match. The $20 million will go toward a project that will build a new, multi-story school in the area where students currently park at Mitchell High School.
The project will carry a total projected cost of $26.5 million. The remainder of the project cost will be covered by a no- or low-interest loan, Mitchell County Schools Executive Director of Facilities Kim Hodshon said during the September joint meeting.
The school is slated to be open in time for the 2021-22 school year and will be an approximately 100,000-square-foot building made for a capacity of 800 students, representatives said during the joint meeting. The school will be built in what is now the high school's parking lot and parking will be moved to the field behind the high school.
Teachers, principals and staff were consulted in every step of the design process, and the building's plans were drawn up with safety heavily in mind, Hodshon added.
The eventual opening of the new school will usher in the closing of Harris Middle School, Bowman Middle School and Deyton Elementary.
The grant money will be allocated in phases to fund construction as it progresses. After about nine months of design time, the construction project will go out to bid to certified construction companies.
The school board has recently discussed concerns over the condition and rapid aging of its older school buildings. Opening a new school will also offer major personnel savings, Calhoun said.
“Mitchell County School System is very excited to begin a project that will make positive changes in our school system,” Calhoun said. “This project will allow Mitchell County Schools to provide more resources to our students in a much safer environment.
“The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant will allow us to build a new school to facilitate quality education for our students, faculty and community.”
See more in this week’s Mitchell News-Journal.