New school on track for fall 2026 opening

Published 5:38 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Beaufort County’s newest public school building could open to students as early as fall of 2026, according to a timeline shared at a public information meeting Thursday.

The overview was presented at the first in a series of planned informational meetings to update progress on a new school to house students in Pre-K through 3rd grade. 

The school would replace aging facilities at Eastern Elementary and J.C. Tayloe, creating a new consolidated elementary school in Washington for the Beaufort County School District. The existing structure at Eastern Elementary would be demolished to make room for the new school building. 

The $52 million project will be funded through a $42 million grant from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Needs-based Public School Capital Fund. The grant requires a $10 million local match, a commitment passed by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in a 5-2 vote in December.

“We’re very excited about the grant opportunity,” said Dr. Matthew Cheeseman, superintendent of Beaufort County Schools. “Very thankful to our county commissioners who actually represented our community in providing $10 million to our schools through this grant.”

Greenville-based architecture firm Hite Associates was contracted for the project. President Jimmy Hite said his group was “very close” to having the schematic design done and the site survey was almost complete.

“We have consulted with a traffic consultant to determine what the issues are with traffic in and out of the school,” Hite said. “It’s a fairly detailed investigation.”

Cheeseman said he was excited to work with Hite on the project, citing the firm’s extensive portfolio of work in Eastern North Carolina, including past projects at John Small Elementary and P.S. Jones Middle School.

Naming the new school

Beaufort County Schools sought community feedback on what to name the new school, directing community members to an online form to submit suggestions.

Cheesman said the effort has resulted in more than 150 submissions.

“Some of those are regional names,” he said. “You get some really creative names. Others are just trying to honor people. Former educators, council members, politicians volunteers, community leaders. Lots of good input.”

Cheeseman said he planned to narrow the list down to 3-5 regional names and 3-5 personal names and share those with the Board of Education at its April 16 meeting.

“Whatever the collective nine decide, that’s what we’ll start moving with.”

Cheesman said they wanted the name to be “substantial.”

“That really reflects on the community,” he said. “So when people across the state, across the region, across the country, hear where the school is they’ll know what that name means. They’ll know what that name means to the community and they’ll know where it is.”

Community meetings

Cheeseman said the informational meetings were an important part of the process.

“This is a community school,” he said. “We want to keep them informed as much as possible — complete transparency — but even more so we need their input. It’s exciting to have meetings as we had today in order for community members to come to one location to see everything at one time. But we really need to listen to what our community is driving for and try to respond accordingly.”

The next New School Construction Meeting is scheduled for May 9.