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Repair, renovate or replace: school officials offer estimates / February 17, 2020
Scott Worner, interim supervisor of secondary education for Halifax County Public Schools, brought a presentation on the options for modernizing HCHS to Friday’s meeting of joint facilities subcommittee. Worner previously presented the information to the Halifax County School Board. The joint facilities subcommittee, which is tasked with making a recommendation for the high school, has six members: county supervisors Ricky Short, Dean Throckmorton and William Bryant Caliborne, and school trustees Sandra Garner-Coleman, Roy Keith Lloyd and Jay Camp.

The options for HCHS that school officials have identified fall into three basic categories:

» Repair. This would entail replacing the high school’s HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems, redoing the interior and exterior, and installing new equipment in the auditorium and gymnasium. Half of the projected $63 million cost would go towards new environmental and electrical systems, replacing ones that are mostly original to the building. The repair option would extend the lifespan of HCHS by 15 to 20 years, officials estimate.

The option would not address many of HCHS’s deficiencies, including its lack of natural light, poor security and instructional design. Repair would lower the annual cost to operate the building by $325,000, according to estimates.

» Renovate. Depending on the scope of the work, full-scale renovation would cost anywhere from $73.3 million to $88 million. The difference would largely lie in a decision to either renovate the C-wing Career and Technical Education space, or tear down that part of HCHS and build a new building wing for CTE programs.

Renovation would extend the life of HCHS by an estimated 25 to 30 years but leave the facility saddled with many of its existing problems. Renovation also runs the risk of uncovering unforeseen issues that could lengthen the construction period of anywhere from 24 to 40 months, said Worner.

Potential snafus with asbestos tiling, hidden cracks and other building issues — “those things we don’t know about that are underfoot,” Worner said.

Renovation would lower annual operating costs for the building by $325,000, he said.

» Rebuild. A new high school facility would do away with all the problems at HCHS and last the county for a span of 55 to 70 years, provided the building is properly maintained, Worner said. The school division would also achieve annual savings of $450,000 in operating costs.

A new school would cost around $82.9 million, rising to more than $107 million by the time “soft costs” — contingencies, fees and insurance expenses, along with furnishings and fixtures — are added to the price tag.

Worner cautioned that the cost figures for all the construction options are only estimates, and construction costs are rising by about 6 percent each year. He also noted, however, that the repair and renovation building options each cost more than 75 percent of a new building alone, the widely-shared benchmark for considering new construction.

“That’s pretty much the rule of thumb,” he said.

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