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  • Diana Matthews

County schools expand construction plans for Cerro Gordo and Tabor City

A $10.6 million state grant headed to the county schools will enhance new campuses planned for Cerro Gordo and Tabor City, the board of education has decided.

The Columbus County Board of Education voted Nov. 5 to use proceeds from the Needs-Based School Capital Grant, which was announced last month, to add more space for instruction to the new preK-8 schools they will soon build in Cerro Gordo and Tabor City. The funds can only be used for building purposes and not operating expenses.

Architect David Clinton of Szostak Design presented the board with redrawn plans showing four more classrooms at the Cerro Gordo campus and two more at Tabor City.

The state Department of Public Instruction mandates class sizes and specific room dimensions for the lowest grades. The first set of designs met that requirement, but in the expanded plans, “The rooms are now the recommended size rather than the minimum allowable size,” Clinton said. Science, career technology, art and music spaces will also increase.

There is “plenty of room for expansion,” Clinton said, by adding onto the ends of the buildings’ wings in the future.

The additional space, Clinton said, would answer concerns the board expressed earlier about room for expansion. “You’re looking at a hundred-year school,” he told the board. “It will outlast your grandchildren.”

Board members had been unenthusiastic about Clinton’s drawing of entrances on the previous plans but liked his new portico drawings, based on the columned entrance of the old Tabor City High School.

Instead of four columns at the front of each school, Clinton showed wider entryways with six columns each, which he said would better balance the width of the buildings. The columns will be molded out of low-maintenance fiber-reinforced polyester.

The new exterior drawings also showed contrasting brick accents that Clinton previously said he couldn’t afford to include.

Clinton added other “hundred-year, problem-free” materials to the new plan. The upgrades included standing seam “energy star” metal roofs, non-slip ceramic tile floors in bathrooms and locker rooms in place of sheet vinyl, terrazzo floors in reception/lobby areas and paperless gypsum board.

The board voted to allow Clinton to carry on based on the expanded plans. The board will take further action on plans at the December meeting.

The estimated costs for the two projects rose to $28,302,613.56 for Tabor City and $25,197,386.44 for Cerro Gordo, a total of $53,500,000.00 for the two.

The board authorized payment to Clinton’s firm for plans, to Soles and Walker for surveying services and to ECS Southeast for wetlands delineation.

Interim Superintendent Jonathan Williams called the $10.6 million state grant “a godsend” that will allow the schools to pay for “things we were leaving out” in the previous plans.

Whiteville City Schools was awarded a $4.3 million Needs-Based Public School Facilities Grant last month. The district intends to use the funds to help pay for a rebuild of the Whiteville High School campus.

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