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With a new school, it’s time to develop a new vision, Nichols tells trustees
SoVaNow.com / April 19, 2017With officials closing in on the choice of a site consultant — and perhaps only months away from picking the location of the Mecklenburg County’s future consolidated school complex — Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said Monday that it’s time for the Mecklenburg County School Board to develop a vision for academics and athletics to match the investment in new facilities.
Nichols’ comments on the planned $100 million middle school/high school complex came Monday night as the school board resumed its ongoing discussions on the most monumental change in local education since school desegregation.
As school trustees consider their plans for the new building, Nichols suggested they should form a committee of school and community members to bring forward recommendations on what students need to do to fulfill changing diploma requirements. He reminded trustees that both the state and the federal government are increasing educational expectations for future graduates. “It is not about passing tests, but about career readiness,” he said.
Questions that need to be answered, Nichols said, include the following:
which programs should be offered at the school versus at a career center or the community college;
what types of partnerships should and can the school division develop that will provide educational opportunities for the students;
what type of digital badges should the new school offer;
what are the athletic growth opportunities.
“Having answers to these questions now will help move the project forward once they [members of the county’s joint education committee] are ready to hire an architect. We can know what we need,” he explained.
Wanda Bailey asked about the size of the committee. Nichols said he was not certain on the membership, but at the very least it should include Gary Cifer, division career and technical education coordinator, and representatives of the Regional Governor’s School and community colleges.
“All players need to be represented, but it should not be so large that we can’t make decisions,” Nichols said.
Glenn Edwards, who serves as the school board’s lead representative on the joint education/capital improvement committee with Mecklenburg County supervisors, said the committee is engaged in price negotiations with site selection firms. He said the the committee is likely to choose a site consultant next month.
Most of the engineering firms say it will take 30-60 days to find a site, Edwards continued. Once that process is over, he expects supervisors will turn the project over to the school board to design and build the new school.
Edwards added that now is the time for trustees to discuss the building process in earnest. “Do we want a design build [firm]” — a traditional project where an architect designs the facility and a contractor builds it as designed — “or a PPEA?” Edwards asked. With the second option, the School Board would shorten the bidding and construction process by turning to a private partner that would speed up work using mainly pre-existing designs.
“Do we want concrete or bricks and mortar? We only get one shot at this,” Edwards said.
He called the work of the current board the most important that trustees have undertaken in years, since they will be designing education facilities that will be used for the next 50 years.
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