School-facilities study to look into the future

Published 4:54 am Friday, November 12, 2010

Staff Writer

Beaufort County school and county leaders hope to begin by the end of the year a study that will forecast the construction needs of the public school system over the next 10 years.
The study will take a look at Beaufort County Schools’ existing school buildings and evaluate them with future population trends in mind to determine where those construction needs will be.
“We want to take a look at our buildings … and demographic trends to determine areas of construction needs,” said Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps. “If we do one piece without the other, we haven’t done a good job.”
The study is expected to be conducted by Hite Associates, a Greenville architecture, engineering and technology firm, which will combine its findings with demographic information provided by N.C. State University, according to County Manager Paul Spruill.
It will be overseen by a steering committee. That committee comprises members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the local school board, Spruill said in an interview Wednesday.
The cost of the study is under discussion, he said.
Members of a school-board committee charged with overseeing the school system’s buildings, grounds and finances got a look at what such a study would entail earlier this week with Hite Associates President James G. Hite.
The first step in the study will be to inventory the school system’s existing buildings and evaluate how they are being used today, Hite told the committee.
“You really need to know and have a good accounting of what you have so that you can plan for the future and move forward in a cost-effective way,” Hite said.
Existing buildings will be evaluated based on their size and adequacy for their student populations as compared to state averages. They will be surveyed for any upgrades needed, energy usage, roofing needs, hazardous materials, site conditions and continued life expectancy, among other factors, Hite said.
Using this information, along with the study of population trends for the county, a list of critical needs and improvements will be developed for each school along with drawings of any new construction that is needed to meet those needs, Hite said.
The study will include cost estimates of those improvements, he said.
William S. Warren, a school board member and committee chairman, said he is pleased that the focus of the study will be on future needs of the school system.
“I’m glad we’re approaching this with needs in mind rather than wants,” he said. “We need to focus on what we really need as opposed to what we want.”
In recent years, members of the Board of Commissioners have called for a study of school construction needs, but that study was delayed while the school board searched for a successor to former Superintendent Jeff Moss.