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The Daily Tar Heel

School districts plan renovations to oldest, crowded facilities

On April 13, CHCCS Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Todd LoFrese spoke to the Chapel Hill Town Council about building needs and planned construction to the schools. Comments from the council were forwarded to the Orange County Board of Commissioners later that week.

“It’s to point out, and to remind the commissioners, that we have significant financial needs in our older schools,” LoFrese said.

The district recently completed a study on its 10 oldest schools — buildings that range from at least 40 to more than 60 years old — to develop plans to fix the schools’ infrastructure and increase capacity.

“Many of our oldest schools are also our smallest schools,” LoFrese said.

He said the plan recommends adding capacity to existing schools by adding on to the existing buildings rather than building new schools.

“If we’re able to implement this plan, we can create almost an entire elementary school within our existing elementary schools,” he said.

This way, he said, the district would not need to build a new elementary school for at least 20 years, and another middle school for at least 18.

LoFrese said while pre-K students are not counted in enrollment and capacity measurements, there are 21 pre-K classrooms in the existing elementary schools. The plan recommends creating a pre-K center at the Lincoln Center, where the CHCCS central office is located, to free up space at those schools.

The planned renovations also include infrastructure repair to Glenwood Elementary School and the creation of separate drop-off areas for buses and cars at all of the older schools.

The district is currently in the discussion phase with the Board of Commissioners about a potential bond referendum in 2016 to pay for these plans as well as Orange County Schools’ facility needs.

Commissioner Renee Price said voters are likely to pass the referendum.

“There’s a lot of talk right now about the bond to support costs for our schools,” she said.

LoFrese said the bond will likely provide about $125 million of funding and will likely not cover all of the renovations CHCCS has planned.

CHCCS requested $160 million from the Board of Commissioners, and OCS requested a similar amount, he said. The Board of Commissioners will decide what to provide each district for their projects.

OCS Chief Operating Officer Patrick Abele said the district is currently analyzing a facility assessment done in 2014 and has submitted its Capital Investment Plan to the Board of Commissioners.

He said OCS also has old facilities that need updating.

“There is a large number of needs,” he said. “There are areas where capacity is being reviewed, as well as the age of the facilities.”

Abele said OCS’ next funded project, which is outlined in the Capital Investment Plan, include adding an auxiliary gym at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough.

The district will solicit bids for architectural design this week then present the plans to the Orange County Board of Education in May or June.

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