Chapel Hill High School is about 60 years old and is finally expected to begin renovations this summer, if the plans are approved by the town council.
Board of Education Member James Barrett said about seven years ago, the Board of Education examined older facilities and discovered the Chapel Hill High School building had many serious problems.
“In 2013, we took the overall package of work that needed to be done to the County Commissioners, they agreed to seek a bond but approval from the voters for a portion of that work,” he said.
He said the bond was approved in November 2016, and they are waiting to get town approval before they can move forward.
“There are issues where concrete has fallen off the stairs — we actually had to spend money to patch that up and continuing to spend money to patch up a building that’s falling apart, it’s not the best use of money,” Barrett said.
Bill Mullin, executive director of school facilities management, said Chapel Hill High is in dire circumstances. The building isn't handicap accessible, the classrooms aren't sized properly, and the AC, heating and electrical distribution system aren’t functioning correctly.
The primary academic building with the front entrance and a smaller classroom building will be torn down and rebuilt, Board of Education Member Joal Broun said. The auditorium, gymnasium, and cafeteria will not be torn down, but will undergo renovations. The trailers will be demolished. Mullin said there will also be a new smaller building constructed near Building B and the tennis courts to hold specialized vocational classes.
This plan enhances the security of the school with a big courtyard in between the buildings for educational and recreational purposes, Mullin said.
“It’s a wide open campus, it’s just spread out over these acres,” he said. “When it’s all set and done, the four buildings will be connected, they will touch with an interior courtyard.”
The new school entrance will be off of Seawell School Road and shared with Smith Middle School.
“When the new academic wings are built and completed, the students will all go into their new locations and the A Building (the front entrance), which will be used over the next two years, will be deconstructed and taken down,” he said.
Broun said the current principal, Sulura Jackson, will be moving to a new position to be the liaison between the next principal and the construction.
“That means the new principal won’t have to deal with the construction issues, they can only be concerned with what’s going on academically and behaviorally,” she said.
The current principal will be in charge of making sure the construction doesn’t interfere with the education and school activities, she said, however, teachers will have to share classrooms.
Ben Hitchings, director of planning and development services, said one of the reasons for the renovations was to accommodate for Chapel Hill’s growth.
“In Wake County, the school system is growing so fast that it has to build several new schools every year,” he said. “Here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, the growth is more modest, and so the school system is able to accommodate it by making strategic renovations to existing facilities.”
He said the development project will be adding more than 160,000 square footage to the high school, but is still reducing it’s development footprint.
Mullin said construction will end sometime in mid-2020.
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