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CHCCS Committee addresses funding needs to repair aging schools

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Riza Jenkins speaks at the CHCCS Finance and Facilities meeting on Sept. 13, 2022. 

Some of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools' facilities are in need of repair or replacement, as the CHCCS Finance and Facilities Committee discussed at its Sept. 13 meeting.

Rani Dasi, the CHCCS Board of Education vice chair, presented the findings of the Capital Needs Work Group, which was founded in 2021 and is composed of representatives from Orange County, Orange County Schools and CHCCS.

The work group’s goal is to develop a plan for dedicating funds and addressing the needs of school facilities, especially older ones.

The work group found that more than half of the schools in the county are over 50 years old, and many are in need of major repairs or total reconstruction.

The aging school buildings are expensive to maintain and can provide poor learning environments for children, the work group's presentation said. 

“The latest thinking is that there's somewhere upwards of half a billion dollars that will be necessary to invest between the school districts in bringing those school buildings up to current standards,” Dasi said.

The work group also found that there are currently no standards or funding for ongoing school maintenance, and that policies have not been developed for allocating money for these needs.

The district has been doing basic repairs to maintain schools’ conditions, but their research shows that many schools are in need of far more.

“At what point are we going to stop putting Band-Aids, substantial financial Band-Aids, in the HVAC units, roof replacements, substantive domestic water pipe sewer replacements, when you know that you’d really need to renovate or even replace certain sections of schools?” CHCCS Deputy Superintendent for Operations Al Ciarochi said.

In an overview of facility condition assessments, Ciarochi said that six of seven evaluated elementary schools in the county are in critical condition, according to the Facility Condition Index.

The elementary schools included in the study are some of the oldest school buildings in the district, the presentation said.

Complete renovations of each of these schools would cost between $1 million and $4 million more per school than renovations that would only provide minimum essential repairs.

“We, unfortunately, cannot wait another 50 or 60 years, we’ve got buildings that are that old already,” Riza Jenkins, the committee chairperson, said.

In terms of solutions for these problems, the work group suggested researching alternative sources for funding of improvements in schools.

Orange County has applied for a need-based capital fund grant from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The money from this grant would go towards renovations at Carrboro Elementary School, which was built in 1957.

Completely renovating Carrboro Elementary School would cost more than $29 million, according to a facility condition assessment presentation during the meeting.

The committee also plans to look into ways the County can source funding for school renovation projects locally, which will require a continued partnership between school system staff and County administration to come up with solutions.

During the meeting, committee members stressed that, should funding be found for school renovations, it is important that the schools are updated in a way that can benefit the surrounding community.

“For many of our schools, they are embedded in neighborhoods, and they can become part of the community, not just for school use but even in the evenings and after school hours,” Ciarochi said.

Board members will review the information presented by the work group and will submit follow-up questions at the next CHCCS Board of Education meeting on Sept. 15.


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Eliza Benbow

Eliza Benbow is the 2023-24 lifestyle editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer university editor. Eliza is a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and media and creative writing, with a minor in Hispanic studies.

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