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GCS rolls out $2 billion plan to transform local education

By: Paul B. Johnson

GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford County Schools has rolled out an audacious, $2 billion plan for the next 12 to 15 years that would lead to new and renovated, modernized school buildings in High Point and create innovative magnet programs, but also lead to the closing of an elementary school in the city.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras and school system leaders detailed the plans in a briefing with The High Point Enterprise on Monday night. The briefing took place before school leaders and Guilford County Board of Education members presented and discussed the proposal with the Guilford County Board of Commissioners at a joint meeting Tuesday morning.

The plan envisions fundamental changes in High Point schools, such creating a series of magnet programs at schools feeding T. Wingate Andrews High School and building a new kindergarten through eighth-grade school to address overcrowding in the Southwest Guilford High School area.

The plan also calls for investments to upgrade High Point Central High School and its feeder schools. Of the proposed $2 billion for the plan, $320 million is pinpointed for the three city high schools and the middle and elementary schools that are in their feeder districts.

The proposal calls for closing 13 county schools and 10 administrative buildings. The only High Point city school on the list for closure is Oak Hill, with its students transferred to other local elementary schools that would be upgraded.

Here’s a breakdown of the impact of the proposal for the three high schools and their feeder schools:

• High Point Central High School area

The proposal would allocate $106 million to address needs at the high school and the elementary and middle schools in the Central area.

The plan would rebuild Northwood Elementary and renovate Shadybrook Elementary, as well as fully renovate High Point Central. Repairs, security and technology upgrades would be made at all Central feeder schools, which include Johnson Street and Fairview elementary schools and Ferndale Middle.

The elementary schools in the Central feeder area would undergo upgrades to take in students from Oak Hill. The elementary school would be closed after rebuilding Northwood and renovating Shadybrook.

• T. Wingate Andrews High School area

The proposal would target $141 million to address needs at the high school and affiliated elementary and middle schools, with an emphasis on magnet programs.

Contreras told The Enterprise at the briefing that parents in the Andrews area have the most interest — based on school system surveys — for having magnet choice programs. So the plan would offer parents four magnet programs and a traditional middle school track for their children.

Kirkman Park Elementary would be rebuilt as a visual/performing arts magnet school with a Spanish immersion program. Montlieu Elementary would be rebuilt as a school with a technology theme, while Penn-Griffin School for the Arts would be renovated into a sixth- through 12th-grade visual and performing arts school as it is now, with a middle school Spanish immersion program.

Wellborn Middle would incorporate the Kearns Academy in a renovated building for a sixth- through 12th-grade gaming and design innovation magnet program. Allen Jay Prep would be repurposed as a local middle school as a traditional option.

Andrews High would be renovated into a public safety and health and biomedical sciences magnet school.

• Southwest Guilford High School area

The plan would allocate $73 million for the high school and its feeder elementary and middle schools.

To address overcrowding at schools in north High Point and southwestern Guilford County, the plan envisions creating a kindergarten through eighth-grade school instead of building separate, new elementary and middle school buildings. The new combination grades school would aim to relieve overcrowding at Southwest and Colfax elementary schools and Southwest Guilford Middle.

Parkview Village Elementary would be renovated to a Montessori school, moving the Montessori program from Triangle Lake Elementary. The switch of Triangle Lake to a traditional elementary school would allow Montessori students to attend a newer school at Parkview.

The plan also calls for repairs, security and technology upgrades at schools in the Andrews and Southwest areas.

School system leaders commissioned a study with the commissioners — completed at the first of this year — that found $1.5 billion in school facility needs. But Contreras said the $2 billion plan includes changes to modernize all schools in the county and address the request by parents for more magnet programs.

If fully implemented, the plan would reduce the average age of a school building in the system from 51 years to 25 years.

The work would be completed in three phases, with each phase taking three to five years. The plan also would eliminate all mobile classrooms in the county school system.

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