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Watauga County Schools Facility Needs Identified in New Capital Improvement Plan

Editor’s Note: This article was published in Watauga County Schools winter edition of its newsletter, The Learning Leader, which can be viewed in its entirety here.

A new Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the document that identifies the needs for major renovations and/or replacements of school buildings over the next 10 years, was presented to and approved by the Board of Education at their Dec. 14 meeting.

Valle Crucis is among the oldest schools in the Watauga County Schools system.
Valle Crucis, pictured above, and Hardin Park are the two schools in the Watauga County Schools system that need to replaced in the next 10 years.

The CIP was presented to the County Commissioners the following day, where Dr. Elliott noted that it was not a formal plan or proposal, but was being presented as the basis for a discussion of the school system’s long term facility needs. The Commissioners took a very positive tone in their response, saying that the information was very useful and would be given close attention at their spring retreat.

The County Commissioners do not adopt a CIP for the school system but would have to approve most of the funding for any of the projects that are undertaken.

Much of the CIP is based on an architectural review of six K-8 schools completed in 2014. The study examined all but the three newest schools (Watauga High School, Cove Creek, and Mabel) to identify components that would need to be upgraded or replaced.

All six of the older schools are more than 40 years old. Even the newest K-8 schools are not so new at this point: Mabel is 23 years old and Cove Creek is 20. Both schools have needed roof replacements in recent years.

The findings of the architectural study were supplemented by the observations and analysis of school personnel and the WCS Maintenance Department, including for the newer schools in the district. The CIP also includes rough estimates for the cost of replacing current school buildings with new facilities. Those estimates are based on formulas from the NC Department of Public Instruction.

The schools that would most likely need to be replaced during the period covered by the CIP are Hardin Park and Valle Crucis.

Hardin Park is the largest K-8 school in the district, with an enrollment of about 800 students, and has suffered repeated roof problems due to its flat roof design as well as other issues.

Valle Crucis School, which serves about 360 students, was built 65 years ago and has faced significant structural issues over the years.

The CIP estimates the total cost of replacing Hardin Park and Valle Crucis with new buildings and renovating the other six K-8 schools for long term use at just over $78 million.

“We have serious long term capital needs and addressing them will not be cheap,” noted Dr. Elliott. “Like any business, we face important decisions about the investments needed to address our long term facilities needs. The improvements outlined in the CIP do not have to be made immediately and we do not have to attempt them all at once, but the longer we wait, the more that conditions will worsen and the higher the costs will be. We need to plan now to address these needs in a timely and systematic way so that we can provide our students and teachers with the safe, comfortable, high quality facilities they need and deserve.”

Dr. Elliott also noted that upgraded facilities will advance the school system’s goals of being the best place in NC for students to learn and for educators to work.

A copy of the WCS Capital Improvement Plan is available under the data side of the news and data page on the WCS website.