Ashe County Board of Education brought forward its financial “wish list” to the Board of Commissioners at a joint meeting held Monday at the courthouse.
This meeting was held to allow the county commissioners to hear, and see, the challenges the school district will face over the next 15 years to keep its facilities safe, secure and up-to-date.
“We are at the very beginning stages,” said Superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves as he addressed the commissioners and school board members.
Ashe County Middle School was the primary focus of the meeting. While there are several renovations that could be made to ACMS, the idea of building an 800-student school was discussed as the main goal. Reeves offered several options to address the aging middle school facility while highlighting its current condition.
According to projections made by Larry Greene, the district’s architect, there are four feasible options to solve the problems at the middle school.
• The first option is to construct a new 800-student sixth through eighth grade middle school. This option would cost an estimated $24 million.
• The second option is to construct a new 550-student seventh and eighth grade school. This option would cost an estimated $17.6 million.
• The third option is to upgrade the current middle school to accommodate 800 students. This school would include grades six through eight and would cost about $10.8 million.
• The fourth option is to upgrade the existing seventh through eighth grade middle school. This would cost roughly $7.6 million.
During the meeting, the members of both boards seemed to be leaning toward a consensus that renovating the current building may not be the best investment because the school is sitting on a 50-year-old foundation.
Although the middle school captured much of the attention during the meeting, other schools have “short-term” capital improvement needs as well.
The district projects that will need addressing in the next five years, said Reeves, amount to approximately $4.5 million, with the cost of a new middle school removed from the overall total. Included in those needs are:
• Paving estimated to cost $275,000 is needed at the high school, Blue Ridge, West Jefferson and the central office facility and garage.
• Security systems estimated to cost $120,000 are needed Blue Ridge, Mountain View, Westwood, West Jefferson and the garage.
• At Ashe Middle School, the floor coverings, which contain asbestos, will cost approximately $100,000 to replace.
• New floor coverings are also needed at the high school and Westwood, at an estimated cost of $100,000.
• Mountain View needs a new air conditioning system for its gym and kitchen and a new auditorium at an estimated cost of approximately $350,000.
• Air conditioning is also needed at the Blue Ridge, Westwood and West Jefferson at an estimated cost of approximately $180,000.
In addition to “short-term” improvements, there was also discussion of “long-term” capital improvements. These needs may cost approximately $3.2 million and they include:
• Upgrading technology infrastructure at the high school, Blue Ridge, Mountain View and Westwood will cost an estimated $400,000.
• Sports field lighting at the middle school, Blue Ridge, Mountain View, and Westwood will cost an estimated $220,000.
• Building a new garage will cost an estimated $2 million.
Several projects are either in progress or have already been completed. An estimated $2.7 million has been spent pursuing these projects, including the following:
• Technology infrastructure costing approximately $412,000 has been installed at the high school, the middle school, Blue Ridge and Westwood.
• Painting both the high school and Blue Ridge ended up costing roughly $80,000.
• Restoring the pool at the middle school had a cost of $103,310.
The North Carolina Education Lottery account for use by the Ashe school district currently contains around $1 million. However, a portion of that may be used to cover money already owed to other projects.
During the discussions, County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell reminded school board members the county also has a list of capital improvement projects, including renovations to the courthouse, health department and convenience centers. She said decisions regarding those projects would be made as the county continues to plan for the future.
Members of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners in attendance included Chairwoman Judy Porter Poe, Vice Chairman Larry Rhodes, Gary Roark, and William Sands. Members of the Ashe County Board of Education attending this meeting included Dr. Lee Beckworth, Vice Chairman C. B. Jones, Terry Williams, Polly Jones, and Chairman Charlie King. Also in attendance were Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Yates and county Finance Officer Sandra Long.