With 25,437 students enrolled in 40 New Hanover County Schools, the board of education sat down during a work session Monday, Oct. 16, to discuss the numbers and the past and future needs of the schools.
The schools are 2,559 students over capacity in the current facilities when the approximately 80 mobile units scattered throughout the county are not included in the numbers. When the mobile units are included, the schools are 1,075 students over maximum capacity system-wide; 254 at the elementary school level, 51 at the middle school level and 770 at the high school level.
Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, also spoke at the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday, Oct. 15. He said the county has experienced trends of growth cycles throughout the county for the past 20 years.
“We appear to be experiencing another one of those trends,” Hance said.
During his presentation to the school board, Hance explained past renovations and repairs, funding and future needs.
Dr. Derrick Hickey, board member and county commission candidate, pointed out that the facility needs survey from 2010 showed Wrightsville Beach School needing $1.56 million in renovations while other schools showed amounts much higher than what he saw as necessary.
“We know that Wrightsville Beach is in dire need of renovations,” Hickey said.
Eddie Anderson, director of facility planning and construction for NHCS, said the needs are identified as less because of the lack of space available at Wrightsville Beach School.
Hickey also said the use of Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church for one year only gives the board breathing room.
The board will have to request an extension of the text amendment to use the church if additional mobile units cannot be placed at the school.
“Mobile units are never a solution to the overcrowding issue,” Hance said. “It’s only a temporary solution. … It’s not a guarantee we can put mobile units at Wrightsville Beach.”
Countywide, the needs of the schools total more than 390 million.
“We need a realistic plan,” Hickey said. “Three hundred and ninety million, no one thinks they will get that.”
Tim Markley, NHCS superintendent, said the work session is just a discussion starting up and the needs will be based on priority.
The county previously cut capital funding so it would not impact the day-to-day functioning of the schools, such as cutting teachers, he said. Now the infrastructure of the schools is showing the impacts of that decision.
“We’re behind on roofing,” Markley said.
Board member Elizabeth Redenbaugh said the board couldn’t neglect the facilities it already has.
After the Nov. 6 election, the issues will be shared with county commissioners, who will decide how funding is allotted for the next budget cycle.
Board member Janice Cavenaugh said she would like to invite the board and county commissioners on a bus tour to visit the schools and see the needs in person.