Why should you support the bonds at the bottom of the second page of this year’s ballot for schools and affordable housing?
In the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district, we can name many reasons: Carrboro Elementary, Glenwood, Phillips, Estes Hills, Chapel Hill High, Frank Porter Graham, Seawell, Ephesus, Culbreth, Lincoln Center.
If your children go to these schools, or you’ve ever visited them – or if you yourself attended them years ago – you know the challenge of keeping up with buildings that are 40 to 60 years old. That’s especially true now, as the school systems’ capital needs have been stretched with newer construction over the past 20 years.
We’ve reached the point where we need to stop putting Band-Aids on these buildings and work through a major plan to renovate them: These schools do not meet current standards for safety, accessibility, health, or even size. Their major systems, such as roofs and HVAC, also need to be replaced. And if we fix these, our “newer” schools (which are up to 20 years old themselves) benefit, too, because money now spent on Band-Aids can instead go to their capital needs.
Now, with the support of the Orange County Board of Commissioners, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) administration and the school board have put together a plan to address these renovation needs while also increasing capacity at our existing sites for our still-growing district. Schools in the Orange County school district have similar needs and a similar plan; funding from the schools bond is split between the two districts according to the number of students each district has.
CHCCS plans to use bond funds to centralize pre-K classrooms, allowing for even better Pre-K instruction and focused collaboration. In tight budget times, this plan delays the need to build a new elementary school for a projected 10 years. This consolidated site is the linchpin in the capital needs plan; it complies with the county funding directives of creating capacity and not building a new school.
Lincoln Center, where the pre-K site will be located, is a historical education site in our community that is in major disrepair. We intend to preserve the site and enhance the building to become a lively community location for years. This also allows us to expand programming at our alternative high school, Phoenix Academy, allowing the district to embrace more creative curriculum options, including more career and technical education for all students.
Creating more affordable housing also supports our schools. This bond funding prioritizes many lives connected to our schools: low- to moderate-income families, Orange County residents with disabilities, domestic violence survivors, and those experiencing or at risk of homelessness. And funds will be focused on those who now work in our community but cannot afford to live here – your child’s teacher, our law enforcement officers, childcare workers, small business employees.
These bonds don’t just reflect the needs of our community; they reflect our values.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education wholeheartedly supports both bonds, and our solid plan will use the funding prudently and efficiently to make massive differences in the lives of students from pre-K through graduation.
Pease vote FOR both bonds starting now during early voting or on election day this Tuesday, Nov. 8. Visit voteforkidsandfamilies.org for more information.
James Barrett is the chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education
How will the school bond money be distributed?
Of the $120 million School Bond, Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) will receive $72.108 million and Orange County Schools will receive $47.892 million. The split in funding is based on how many students each district serves. In addition to safety and security updates and repairs for each district, major projects include:
Chapel Hill High School will be reconstructed, in phases, to address critical maintenance issues including HVAC system updates, ADA updates, insufficient educational spaces, outdated science labs and facility deterioration.
Lincoln Center renovations will allow CHCCS to co-locate most Pre-K classrooms at one central location thereby freeing up currently used classroom space in elementary schools. This will result in increased seating across the district of 189 seats and alleviate the immediate need for a new elementary school. In addition, these renovations will more than double the capacity of the Phoenix Academy High School, the district’s alternative school.
Cedar Ridge High School is near capacity. Bond funds will construct a new classroom wing and increase the school’s capacity by 500 students.
Other schools, including Orange High School, will receive much-needed infrastructure replacements, such as roofs and antiquated and failing mechanical systems, in addition to other necessary safety and security repairs and updates.
Additionally, both school districts will fund a more sustainable student transportation/maintenance center to service buses for both districts.
Source: Orange County