The $54M question: Where to build new Carthage Elementary School?

Moore County Schools Executive Officer of Operations John Birath presented the results of a second feasibility study for replacing Carthage Elementary School (CES) at 312 Rockingham Street. The presentation was made for the public and the Carthage Town Council at the historic Carthage Courthouse on Tuesday.

The second study was conducted to bring more realistic numbers into consideration with the rising inflation. The studies help determine if students will leave elementary education, enter middle and high school, and graduate in uniform growth patterns, or will population growth impact the hypothetical growth forecast.

The feasibility study showed that CES scored a six in meeting classroom size, conditions, safety and code compliance, signifying CES must be replaced.

The feasibility study shows CES needs to be replaced because it does not meet safety standards. Slide from school district.

County governments are responsible for paying for school buildings, and the primary source of revenue for county governments is local property taxes.

Concerns for keeping the same location at 312 Rockingham St. are congested traffic, difficulty to add rooms, taking in the ballfield to add rooms, the 30-foot slope where the school sits on a hill, the forecasted growth of Little River Community, nowhere to place modular units, the need for larger classrooms and rooms for nurses and counselors, and the safety factor of the buildings not being connected to meet safety standards.

To keep CES outdoor areas, a multi-story building could be built, but that would not solve traffic or projected 50-year growth issues with the need for more buildings.

“The existing school is on 7.7 acres and will not meet student capacity needs,” Birath said.

If a new school was built on the CES site, a temporary school site for modular buildings would be the county fairgrounds.

Considering a renovation to modernize CES to meet safety standards, it would cost approximately $17,550,525 without factoring inflation.

Carthage Town Clerk Emily Yopp sent an email to Sandhills Sentinel to clarify a potential new site with 16.84 acres being the existing CES, along with the town-owned Nancy Kiser Park and baseball fields down below. To build a new school at the existing CES site, the park would need to be included as school property.

Moore County Schools share the second feasibility study on renovating or replacing Carthage Elementary School. Slide 11 talks about the funding options. Slide 5 talks about the 16.84 acres. Presentation from school district.

The potential site of 16.84 acres has irregular slopes that impact the building area, but slope issues were overcome with a strategic design in the Southern Pines Elementary School and the Pinehurst Elementary School.

“It can be done,” Birath said. “A 650 capacity school needs a 16.5-acre site for usable areas including play areas.”

The planning committee is looking at all options for a building site within the town limits to keep down expenses on sewer and water connections.

For a capacity of 650 students, building a new school would take approximately three years and 10 months. For example, if a call for qualifications for architects and contractors began Dec. 21, 2021, the expected date for students to use the new school would be August 2025.

For 32 classrooms, two pre-k rooms, two self-contained classrooms, in a 109,437 square foot building, with a bussing area and a separate parent pick-up area, athletic areas, and easements, the expected cost for a new school, with current inflation, is $54,000,000.

As the slide below shows, a preliminary study released in May 2021, shows the cost at $42.5 million. The rising inflation resulted in an increase of approximately $11.5 million from May 2021 to Nov. 21.

The May 2021, Preliminary Budget was presented to Moore County officials on May 7, 2021. Slide is from school district.

Funding sources include a county one-time supplement of $2.136 million, COVID-19 Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) of $626,050, N.C. Lottery funds of $850,000, Carthage funds of $110,690, and ESSER Supplemental funds of $3 million.

Other funds are expected from grants.

Public comments included statements about keeping the school at the existing site, how the site accommodates pedestrian traffic, and how the existing school was part of the community’s attraction for those looking to relocate to a small town.

Feature photo: Carthage Elementary School Attendance Area as shown in Moore County School’s slide presentation. Red dot in middle of green area is the existing school. Slide from school district.

~Article and feature photo by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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