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Orange County passes resolution to proceed with $300 million school improvement bond

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Chapel Hill High School, located off of Seawell School Rd, is pictured on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

In its most recent meeting, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners passed a preliminary resolution showing its intent to hold a countywide referendum on a $300 million bond for the school facility improvement.

Travis Myren, the deputy county manager, said the resolution was the first step needed to allow Orange County residents to vote on the creation of the bond through a referendum alongside federal and state elections in November 2024.

“They took the first of four legislative actions on Tuesday night by basically approving a maximum amount that the bond can be and the purpose that the funds must be used for,” Myren said. 

He said, at its next business meeting, the board will approve the creation of a bond education committee which will likely include representatives from the Board, Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. The committee will put together educational materials about the bond and its potential impact on taxpayers, Myren said.

This won’t be the first time Orange County voters have seen a bond referendum on the ballot. In 2016, a $120 million bond for school facility improvement and a $5 million bond for low and middle-income housing were voted on via referendum. 

County Commissioner Earl McKee said that getting approval for this bond from Orange County voters is important because the proposed bond is so large and would likely bring tax increases for voters.

The board chose the amount for the bond based on the results of the Woolpert School Facility Study, which assessed the needs of every school in the county. The report presented the commissioners with multiple paths to move forward with school facility improvement, according to County Commissioner Jamezetta Bedford.

She said many schools within the county need basic infrastructure upgrades that will allow for the improvement of student safety and learning opportunities.

Bedford said one of the ways infrastructure upgrades can lead to improved student learning is by allowing the creation of technical and career learning spaces, like an industrial kitchen for students who are interested in culinary arts.

Many of the infrastructure upgrades are needed because the school facilities are aging, McKee said.

“While we aren’t trying to build a new school to have it listed in Architectural Digest, these facilities have been aging over time," McKee said. “They do need a facelift.” 

Dwayne Foster, OCS's chief operations officer, said the bond would allow for a variety of renovations and repairs that will allow Orange County students to be the best possible versions of themselves in the classroom.

He said the County has schools that were built in the 1950s and '60s, which do not meet the educational adequacy needs for students in 2024. He also said community members should consider voting for the bond because it will ensure that students get a quality education, which benefits the community as a whole. 

"It's not just whether I have a student necessarily in Orange County schools," Foster said. "But for the future of those in the community and for the future of ensuring that our young people are getting exactly what they need to grow and be great contributors to our society."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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