As Warren County schools continue to study what schools need to prepare for the future, an idea of what that future might look like is beginning to take shape.
The Warren County School Board’s facilities committee reviewed a plan drawn up by Cary-based NEMA Management, as the consulting firm presented an update at a recent meeting.
For several years, the school system has been thinking about how to meet the needs for facilities in order to prepare for the future. The needs of aging school buildings, especially local elementary schools, are at the top of the list of issues to be addressed.
When an outside firm assessed the school system buildings several years ago, the condition of the elementary schools was identified as a major concern because the buildings were constructed between 1957 and 1969.
Warren County Schools Operations Manager John Williams told the newspaper last week that the School System Maintenance Department was evaluating school buildings throughout the district. NEMA management focused on the current Warren County Middle School/Warren County High School site to review the property’s space, buildings and infrastructure, he noted.
Williams said the plan developed by NEMA management takes into account several points of consideration mentioned by the school board: a reduction in the number of students served by schools in Warren County, the distribution of school sites in relation to each other to others and how best to use school system funding. The board wonders if some form of consolidation might be the best solution for the school system.
According to NEMA Management’s presentation, the consultancy developed its plan with several goals in mind:
• Consolidate schools (one countywide elementary school, one countywide middle school, and one countywide high school)
• Have all schools on a central campus (the 158 freeway bypass campus that covers WCMS, WCHS and Warren New Tech High School)
• Provide a state-of-the-art secondary school
• Provide new modern facilities to improve the learning environment
• Establish a long-term capital improvement plan
NEMA management recommended the following strategy to achieve these goals, noting that when the work is complete, Warren County will have three updated consolidated schools on a central campus.
• Refresh Mariam Boyd, Northside K-8 and Vaughan to achieve four to five additional years of use
• Expand the Warren New Tech building to serve as a transitional space for two to three years and eventually become the new Consolidated Elementary School.
• Warren County Middle School Complete Renovation (Consolidation of Northside Middle Classes into Warren County Middle School)
• Complete renovation of Warren County High School (consolidation of New Tech and Early College into Warren County High School)
Williams said the Warren New Tech High School and Warren Early College High School programs will continue at the consolidated site. He noted that Warren Early College’s current space limitations have prevented the school from expanding its student population.
The NEMA management overview includes several “next steps” for Warren County schools:
• Apply for capital funding for public schools based on need
• Conduct a population study
• Receive contractor feedback on project costs and schedule
• Solicit design proposals
Design proposals would consider the following:
• Refresh elementary schools
• Master plan study (to concretize or modify the strategy)
• New Tech (addition of a new wing and cafeteria, conversion into a transition space and conversion into a permanent consolidated elementary school)
• Warren County Middle School Renovation
At this point, the school system views the NEMA management presentation as laying the foundation for any future plans. Nothing specific has been decided yet.
Heather Lawing, communications and engagement manager for Warren County Schools, said no recommendations have been made at this time and no end points for the project have been determined.
“(The school system) must be efficient, fiscally responsible and provide students and staff with a safe learning and working environment,” she said.