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School board expected to request $470.4 million from county for school construction, renovations


The Auxiliary Services Committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education voted unanimously to ask the county for more than $470 million for capital improvements to replace and renovate schools over the next five years.

The funding would cover the construction of seven new schools and the replacement or renovation of 18 others.

The committee voted on the proposal on March 31. The resolution will now go before the full board for consideration at its next regular meeting on Tuesday.

“The county commissioners have seen the resolution,” said Joe Desormeaux, the associate superintendent of Auxiliary Services for Cumberland County Schools. “They will decide how much money they will give to us.”

“I think they’ve got their challenge on how to fund those needs,” he said during a presentation to the committee.

The resolution states that the board “has determined and found that both renovations to and replacements of existing school facilities are needed to meet the needs of our current and future student population …”

If the full board approves the resolution, Desormeaux said, it will be sent to the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners for consideration. Most likely, the request would go along with the board’s budget request for the 2022-23 school year.

Desormeaux said he had talked to the county about the district’s needs. The school district also submitted a five-year study to the state a couple of years ago, he said.

“Basically, each year we should be providing a estimate of the needs for capital improvements to the commissioners,” he said. “The same time as we do the budget.”

Board of Education member Charles McKellar asked what Desormeaux had taken away from the meetings with the Board of Commissioners. “Did they understand their responsibilities?” McKellar inquired. “That these needs are testifiable needs that they need to support?”

Desormeaux said county commissioners had seen a draft of the resolution that asks for their support for capital improvement needs.

“I believe they understood and believe the needs that were identified to them,” Desormeaux said. “It’s unclear what they will be able to do. I think they understood the process and the approach we took. They were comfortable with that approach. And they were comfortable with this resolution. At least, the staff was.”

Glenn Adams, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said none of the commissioners have seen which capital improvement projects are the most pressing priorities. He said he had not heard back from the school system on this topic since receiving an overview in the early stages of the process.

"We haven't even gotten their sheet yet," Adams said Friday. "We don't know what's on there. We haven't seen it."

He said it would be up to school officials to prioritize "what's important to them. I'm not in a position to tell them what to do with their schools."

Adams added that the school district would refine the list "and then we'll see what they ask from there. The process is, they will send it to the manager in the budget season. That's their capital budget. Not the regular budget," he said.

The most expensive project in the school system’s plan would be the $90 million replacement of the 68-year-old E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville.

The resolution calls on county commissioners “to take all necessary steps, by the issuance of bonds or otherwise, to provide funds for the school system’s capital building needs.”

The anticipated $470.4 million in school construction costs assume that the school system will get a $50 million grant to help pay for a new E.E. Smith High School.

The present school, Adams said, is essentially landlocked, and E.E. Smith has new technology like its drone robotics. He said the current building has space limitations "the way those walls were built."

Adams noted how the E.E. Smith girls' softball field is located nearby at Ferguson-Easley Elementary School on Seabrook Road, and that the school band practices at Ferguson-Easley.

"One thing we want to make sure is the educational level  - that these kids are in an environment where they can learn. That's why they've done this preplanning," Adams said. "Make sure they get some of these things lined up and as we move forward, they don't drop at one time. It's over five years."

The other six new schools would replace and consolidate two or more schools.

Based on the plan, five schools would undergo major renovations, with the cost ranging from $12.44 million to $23.83 million.

According to the plans, the schools that would be replaced in the five-year plan and the anticipated costs are:

  • Cumberland Road and Walker Spivey elementary schools, $34.6 million.
  • Sunnyside and J.W. Seabrook elementary schools, $34.6 million.
  • Raleigh Road Elementary School, which would be combined with a proposed school in northern Cumberland County, $35.29 million.
  • J. W. Coon and Sherwood Park elementary schools, $35.9 million.
  • Ferguson Easley and Lucile Souders elementary schools, $35.9 million.
  • Stedman Primary and Stedman and Beaver Dam elementary schools, $36.71 million.

The schools that would get renovated in the plan and the anticipated costs are:

  • William H. Owen Elementary School, $12.44 million.
  • Ponderosa Elementary School, $19.78 million.
  • Alger B. Wilkins High School, $16.55 million.
  • Howard Learning Academy Middle School,  $14.02 million.
  • Westarea Elementary School, $23.83 million.

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Cumberland County, Board of Education, school renovations, school replacement, budget