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Years in the making, commissioners approve $300 million in school bond spending
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Years in the making, commissioners approve $300 million in school bond spending

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GREENSBORO — It’s money that has been debated and contested, but soon Guilford County Schools will be able to use $300 million for new buildings and much-needed renovations.

The Guilford County Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a request from the school board to issue bond debt for the money, which was approved by voters in a referendum last November.

County Manager Michael Halford told commissioners that it takes about four months to sell the bonds and take on the debt.

The approval Thursday was the last step in a process that has been years in the making.

The declining condition of some county schools has long drawn consternation from many who’ve been advocating for repairs and renovations.

Discussions of the bonds began as far back as 2016 when Superintendent Sharon Contreras arrived and learned about the aged condition of some of the buildings she would be overseeing. There were schools, for example, operating in buildings deemed inappropriate for their use.

The system determined that the average construction date of Guilford County school buildings was 1966.

Administrators wrote a strategic plan during this process and developed a master growth plan in 2019.

The price tag for all the district’s building and renovation needs: a staggering $1.6 billion.

However, under a previous Board of Commissioners, only $300 million for those requests and the bond referendum was approved.

A start, at least.

According to Angie Henry, the district’s chief financial officer, almost all of the system’s schools have needs, from completely new buildings to replacement of mobile classroom units that are more than 30 years old.

Now with that money coming, the district will follow a spending plan that was laid out in March.

First, the district will fork out $10.6 million on land for current and future projects.

The plan includes building two projects related to the schools damaged and closed by the tornado that devastated east Greensboro three years ago this week. Under the plan, a new Hampton-Peeler Elementary School would be constructed on the site of what was former Peeler Elementary.

The school plans also call for Archer Elementary to be closed as a neighborhood school, fully renovated and turned into a Montessori magnet school.

Other schools on the list to be replaced are Brooks Global Studies and Foust and Claxton elementary schools.

Peck Elementary would be rebuilt as an “expeditionary learning” magnet school for grades K-8.

The two most expensive items on the list are $56.7 million to turn Foust into a gaming and robotics magnet school and $55.4 million to rebuild Kiser Middle School.

Several commissioners, including teacher Mary Beth Murphy who joined the board in December, expressed excitement at the new school spending.

Carly Cooke, a mother of two young children, ran on a platform of more money for schools.

“I’m excited about all these new schools,” she said.

And Carlvena Foster added: “I’m very excited we’re at this point.”

Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.

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