It’s official. The Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors voted to purchase the site for the new Mecklenburg County Middle and High School today at a special meeting. Additionally, they agreed to fund a budget for the new school at $120,000,000.00; the figure that Ballou, Justice, and Upton, our architects, have determined will meet our building needs. This includes the classrooms, space for the six career centers, appropriate gyms and athletic fields, and an auditorium for 1,200. This is a major move forward for Mecklenburg County, in so many ways.
The obvious winners from this action are the students and staff members in the schools. Most of our readers are aware that the current middle and high schools were all built in the 1950’s. They have served well but are very outdated. Matters related to safety, discipline, appropriate heating and cooling, and typical classroom activities have all changed dramatically, particularly in the past decade. The new facility is designed to take advantage of all the new concepts.
Students and staff are not the only winners though. This is the most important investment for future economic development that the county could take. Mecklenburg County has several unique features that make it very attractive for business. We have major highways running north and south, east and west. We are very close, and almost exactly halfway between major cities; Richmond and Raleigh/Durham, Washington DC and Charlotte NC, New York and Atlanta. Thanks to the Tobacco Commission and Mid-Atlantic Broadband we have major fiber-optic cables infrastructure connecting us by Internet to the whole world. We are the gateway to the two largest lakes in Virginia and North Carolina. This is good for business as well as tourism. The one thing that has held business back has been the perception that we have a very poor K12 education system. New buildings and the new career preparation focus of our system will take care of that issue.
The community as a whole will also benefit greatly. Mecklenburg has been a county divided east and west. There is a very old and wise statement, “United we stand, divided we fall!” Focusing our resources to serve and support our students in this facility will build the strongest foundation to unite our county to its greatest potential.
Now that the site has been determined and the budget established we can really begin to move forward. There has been much work done toward this goal, and much work yet to do. We set a goal, when we began this process, to move into the new building in August of 2021. We are on schedule for this thanks to the fact that the Architects worked with school staff and community leaders to complete preliminary design stages before we finalized decisions about the site and the budget. There are some months of design details yet to complete before we are ready to bid the project for builders and break ground. During this time, we will begin the process of marketing the new building and programs. This includes engaging students, staff, and the community in the process of selecting new school mascot and team colors. These efforts will take time and effort but will definitely be very exciting for everyone.
Yes, this is a time for celebration in Mecklenburg! The process of preparing for new middle and high schools has been long and emotional; a major topic of discussion in the community for over two decades. There are many persons to thank for their hard work and patience to bring us to this place. This includes, but is not limited to, the members of the School Board and Board of Supervisors (particularly the Joint Education Committee), county leaders that served on the 2016 School Facilities Study committee, business and civic leaders that contributed advice at architectural planning meetings, and of course, our Mecklenburg county educators who serve on the front line with our students. Thanks to all of you we are going to have new secondary facilities and this will propel our students and community into the 21stCentury very well.