By Allen Turner
The Columbus County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to give the Whiteville City Schools $250,000 from North Carolina lottery funds and also voted to authorize the schools to apply for $4,329,000 from the N.C. Needs Based Public School Capital Fund Grant.
The actions came after presentations from Supt. Kenny Garland and Paul Boney, Jenny McGrath and Marques Moore of Boney’s LS3P architectural design firm.
The money will go towards 60,000 sq. ft. of new construction and 10,000 sq. ft. in renovations at Whiteville High School. Work on the $18 million project will begin later this year.
The $4,329,000 to be sought from the state fund grant represents 28.86 percent of the maximum amount of $15 million that can be awarded to a single county and reflects the city schools’ amount of projected average daily membership of public education in Columbus County during the 1018-19 school year.
Awarding of the grant money is not guaranteed, and funding is expected to local agency agencies (LEAs) deemed to be most shovel-ready at the time of application; if the city schools are not included in the next round of funding, they could reapply for the money next year.
The $250,000 in lottery money approved for the city schools will be used towards payment of $333,000 the city schools have committed of their own funds to the construction project. The remaining $83,000 will come from the city schools’ fund balance, or rainy day savings. County commissioners have committed $3 million to the project.
Pitching for the renovations, Garland told commissioners, “Some of the buildings are nearly 100 years old,” he said, “and the project will bring a much-needed update to the campus and provide us an opportunity to grow.”
Phase 1 includes a new cafeteria, new classrooms, a visual arts facility and two health science rooms, a culinary arts area, new band, vocal music and drama rooms.
Phase 2 will add vocational facilities and include renovations to the media center and science lab. The weight room will be torn down in phase 2 and an auxiliary gym and new weight room will be added.
Garland and Boney stressed that the plans have been drawn with an eye on school safety and security. The campus is difficult to get around right now, and that will be improved with the renovations and additions.
“When we looked at developing a plan for the current campus, school safety was the top priority, even more so after the incident at Parkland High School in Florida,” Garland said. “We have taken into consideration various resources that we currently have on campus, the buildings we will be able to utilize and they buildings we won’t be able to utilize. What we’re trying to do is bring connectivity to the campus.”
Alluding to recent incidents of school violence in Florida and elsewhere, Boney told commissioners, “These days an architect has to think the unthinkable and include that thinking in plans.” Plans for the new building include a central main entrance axis that can be closely monitored and screened and intersects with a main campus axis that provides more controlled access to the remainder of the school.
Commissioner Trend Burroughs thanked Garland and the city school board for the manner in which they’ve kept commissioners informed of their planning. “You’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do in a timely and professional manner,” he said.
Commissioner James Prevatte made two separate motions, each seconded by Edwin Russ, to give the city schools the $250,000 in lottery funds and to allow them to apply for the $4.3 million in state capital grants money. Both motions passed unanimously.