New high school plan adjusted to fit within budgetary constraints 

RAEFORD – The Hoke County Board of Education met Tuesday, March 14, with changes to the new high school plans, the key item on the agenda.

The board kicked off the meeting by recognizing the 100% inspection rating earned by East Hoke Middle School.

“East Hoke Middle School is the school that received the 100% rating from our Environmental Health Inspector from our county office,” said Executive Director of Child Nutrition Deborah Carpenter. “They inspect quarterly, and they really are very tough. The Cafeteria Manager, Fonnie Collins, came on new, and she had an entire new team, except one person, and that person was not at East Hoke last year. So we are excited that she came in and worked so hard because this is something that she told me from the very beginning. She said, ‘I’m going to make you proud, and we’re going to get our 100.”

The board then approved an amendment to the new high school project budget to reflect the updated plans.

In order to fit within the budgetary parameters, the plan by SfL+a Architects was amended, removing some of the project’s overall square feet and capacity.

“Due to inflation and other factors, you can see the original program budget was only for 144,000 square feet, and the project was at 153,000 square feet, so to try and bring that back in line, we amended the plan which also helps realign with the capacity projections,” said SfL+a Architect and Project Manager Michael Holborn. “We’ve heard loud and clear that we have a budget and to not go over it, and this is trying to kind of realign things.”

Initially, the project had a total square footage of 153,332 and supported a total capacity of 2,924 students, but the reduction brings the total square footage down to 141,337 and the student capacity to 2,440, which is in line with the district’s projections for 2029-30.

“If you upped your utilization to 85%, say you did the 20-30 predicted student count, this campus could still house 2,765 at just an 85% utilization rate,” Holburn said. “So we feel that the capacity of this project could still handle lots of students 10-15 years out based on the predictions that we have from the school board.”

In total, 16 classrooms were removed from the final plan, but none of the core spaces were affected.

“In order to bring us back within our budget, that’s what they had to do,” said Board Chair Angela Southerland. “They had to make those changes. We’re not able to go back to the county commissioners and get money, so this is what we have to do. We’re not going to give up any more than what’s on this paper. $78,406,025. We’re not going to pay any more, so they had to cut something out to get us back under the budget.”

Along with the project, the board approved the selection of MBP for construction management services. A finalized contract will come before the board at a later date once negotiated.

“At the request of the superintendent, we were contacted to take a look at the project you had and the scope of work that you had and to provide back a service to keep the project on budget and make sure that all of the items are addressed properly,” said MBP Project Manager Mike Burriss. “Things have changed quite a bit as far as inflation. Building costs have gone up. It’s also a good idea to go ahead and look at the total project budget. Everything else you’re going to need to buy and everything needs to be under that cap that we had.

“We walked through each one of the line items that we had, made sure that we addressed capacity and how we could address it in an easy way so that if there’s a future change or future need, that it gives flexibility to the board to make that modification, whether that’s investing in this building and adding more additions or at least expanding through capacity utilization.”

To go forward with MBP through the remainder of the project, the proposal would have to go through the pre-construction and construction phases, and the total cost is projected to be $296,250.

The board then approved the staff recommendation of Toshiba Business Solutions to provide printing services for the district at a cost of $237,596.

The board was also given an update on the School Safety Grant they received earlier in the school year.

“We wrote the grant last Fall from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for the Center for Safer Schools,” said Executive Director of Student Support Services Dr. Peggy Owens. “We were actually awarded a total of $278,885. With that breakdown, it was $44,000 for a resource officer, $159,885 for school safety equipment, and $75,000 for Students in Crisis.”

The Hoke County Schools Board of Education will next meet April 11.