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WS/FCS Board of Education Solidifies Changes to 2016 Bond Projects
UPDATE - September 27, 2022 - The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education has decided how to move forward with the use of the remaining funds from the 2016 Bond Referendum.
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, the board acknowledged continuance in moving forward with the following remaining 2016 Bond Projects:
- Ashley Elementary School design
- Brunson Elementary School replacement
- Land procurement for an elementary school in eastern Forsyth County
- East Forsyth High School project design contract will be brought to the BOE in the October Building and Grounds Committee meeting.
Budgets may require adjustment on the above to accommodate the construction economy at the time of bidding.
The board then voted to postpone the Griffith Elementary School addition & Pre-K center, the Ward Elementary School addition, and the New Smith Farm Middle School projects. Following this action, staff will bring forward recommendations for reallocation of funding from these three (3) projects to be dispersed to the remaining projects in the 2016 Bond Program.
The board also voted to move forward with obtaining construction pricing for the current design and renovations of Philo-Hill Magnet Middle School. The board decided not to move forward with the option to completely remove and rebuild Philo-Hill.
The decisions come after a public meeting mentioned below and a chance for online public comments to be submitted to the Board.
On Thursday, September 22, from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m., Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools will hold an in-person, drop-in style, community meeting about the proposed changes for the use of the 2016 voter approved bond projects. The meeting will be inside the auditorium of the WS/FCS Education Building at 4801 Bethania Station Road in Winston-Salem.
September 13, 2022 – The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education has some important decisions to make about how to use the remaining funding from the 2016 bonds. WS/FCS Director of Facilities and Construction Nick Seeba has some advice to offer.
Voters approved a $350 million bond in the 2016 election that focused on enhancing safety, capacity, and technology across the district. As planned, the bond projects were rolled out in phases. The bond money was delivered in four phases of $87.5 million, so the district prioritized completing the projects that had the most immediate implications first. These projects were all designed to make a palpable positive impact on the everyday experience of the students and staff members who use these facilities.
“Through the completion of all our projects, we have improved the safety, use, and care of the facilities we have developed since 2016,” Seeba said. “The projects completed to date have all been well received by the students, teachers, administrators, and community members.”
However, like much of the country, the COVID-19 pandemic led to complications with material supply and labor shortages that have affected some of the construction projects costs. In the final phase of the bond, the one most impacted by hikes in labor and material costs, there are eight design and construction projects to be completed. With the budget dwindling and construction costs still high, Seeba says that the district needs decisive direction to achieve its goals and make best use of the remaining funds.
One large question focuses on the originally planned work to Philo-Hill Magnet Middle School, which was scheduled to start an extensive renovation in early 2020 until the pandemic hit. Since then, more administrative and community input has led to changes to the original vision for the renovations. Now, the district is working with a recently returned finished design for the project that the Board could approve within a few weeks, but it’s $24 million more than was originally accounted for. From here, staff have identified three options that the Board could pursue:
- The district can proceed with the current design, which will renovate the gym, convert the current kitchen and cafeteria into administrative space, convert the current administrative space and auditorium into new STEAM classrooms, and build a new media center, kitchen, cafeteria, and three-story classroom wing.
- Redesign based on the original scope of the bond, which will renovate all the square footage of the existing building, fix ADA issues, and build a new 3-story classroom wing.
- Demolition of the existing facility and then redesign of the build back for a new school for Philo-Hill.
Given current circumstances, WS/FCS staff feels it would be wise to postpone certain remaining projects to a later bond to offset potential overages. For example, Griffith Elementary School and Ward Elementary School, both of whose renovations focus mostly on expansion, and Smith Farm Middle School, a big-dollar project that will involve building an entire new school next to the existing Smith Farm Elementary School. Those projects stand out as ideal candidates.
Postponing these projects, as well as choosing a plan for Philo-Hill, is an important consideration, given that East Forsyth High School’s renovations could potentially be affected by additional spending on Philo-Hill.
“My intention is, if everything stays the same or gets better, that we do all of those projects that we have left except those three, and we just postpone those until the next bond,” Seeba said. “Outside of those three projects [Griffith, Ward, and Smith Farm], all the other projects will have work done, period.”
All of these matters were on the agenda for the Buildings and Grounds committee during their meeting on Tuesday, September 13, and the Board will vote on a plan during their meeting on Tuesday, September 27. Whatever they decide, WS/FCS staff is working to assure stakeholders that the district is trying to be as careful as possible with the bond funding to make sure every school gets exactly what it needs, within the scope of available funding. Seeba also expressed his gratitude for all the work his department has put in during these bond projects and looks forward to seeing what the team can achieve next.
“For the four years that I’ve worked as a project manager for the district under W. Colon Moore’s direction and now as a Director of this awesome department, I think I share, along with my staff, Kevin West and Sheila Simpson, that we’ve thoroughly enjoyed making the improvements we have made for the various school facilities throughout the county and we want to continue the same for all of the projects that remain.”
WS/FCS has submitted applications for the Brunson Elementary School, East Forsyth High School, and Ashley Elementary School projects. Awards to the Brunson Elementary School and East Forsyth High School projects would benefit the bottom line for the remainder of our projects.
Please be sure to contact your State Representative to express your support for the NC DPI “Needs Based School Construction Grants” for the following projects:
· Brunson Elementary School
· East Forsyth High School
· Ashley Elementary School
For more information about this Capital Funding process, please follow this link.
A public, in-person, drop-in style, community meeting about the proposed changes is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. inside the auditorium of the WS/FCS Education Building at 4801 Bethania Station Road in Winston-Salem.
For more specific details on the staff proposal, click here: https://bit.ly/3S2B4Gq
For more information about the 2016 bond, click here: https://www.wsfcs.k12.nc.us/2016bond
(336) 727-8213 Ext. 70545