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Here's the 7-year timeline of how HHS construction happened

The new Hendersonville High School, a $62 million project that added new classrooms, band and chorus rooms, chemistry labs and renovated the Stillwell building and auditorium, will be dedicated Wednesday. The new Hendersonville High School, a $62 million project that added new classrooms, band and chorus rooms, chemistry labs and renovated the Stillwell building and auditorium, will be dedicated Wednesday.

Ninety-six years after community leaders dedicated a new Hendersonville High School on Eighth Avenue West and seven years after Henderson County commissioners, School Board members, City Council members and Bearcat alumni embarked on a protracted, often contentious negotiation of what a new HHS would look like, community leaders will dedicate the finished product.

Henderson County School Board members and administrators, county commissioners and the public are scheduled to celebrate the opening of the new Hendersonville High School campus on Wednesday in time for the start of the 2022-2023 school year later this month.
Originally slated for completion in August 2023, the project moved ahead of schedule in 2020 and 2021 when remote learning because of Covid-19 forced students off campus.
A $62 million investment by the Henderson County Board of Commissioners, the new campus includes 82,000 square feet of renovated space plus a new gym and the 115,000-square-foot Campbell Boyd Building.
The project preserved and renovated the historic Stillwell building and auditorium, established a new building with 21st century classroom space and reworked the campus layout for increased security. It also ultimately included athletic field upgrades corresponding with the public school system’s other three traditional high schools’ fields. As part of the new school, Dietz Field now has new artificial turf, a new rubberized track and a new press box.
“The Board of County Commissioners is pleased to announce to the taxpayers of Henderson County that work has been successfully completed on the newly renovated and expanded Hendersonville High School,” Board of Commissioners Chair Bill Lapsley said in a news release. “This $60 million investment in our community’s education facilities shows the support of past commissioners as well as the current Board of Public Education of our young people.”
School Board Chair Blair Craven added, “As a graduate of Hendersonville High and school board chair, it makes me extremely proud that this newly renovated campus will be here for at least the next 100 years to serve the next generations of Bearcats.”
Here is the timeline of the Hendersonville High School history and the many steps that resulted in the approval and completion of the project:

• 1901: The first Hendersonville High School opens in the Judson College building at the corner of Fleming Street and Third Avenue.

• 1919: The high school moves to the old Noterman house at what is now Boyd Park between Main and Church streets at Eighth Avenue.

• Dec. 3, 1926: Hendersonville High School at 311 Eighth Avenue West is dedicated. Designed by the prolific architect Erle Stillwell, the three-story 64,000-square-foot building contains 30 classrooms, a library and auditorium. Stillwell’s Job. No. 1194, the design was created in 103 sheets of drawings and 36 blueprints. Built as a union school serving students from first grade through high school, the building had traditional classrooms and rooms for practical training — clothing lab, cooking lab, dining room, commercial room and a bank complete with a counter for training tellers. “While they were looking for funding for the new building, city fathers realized they would have to make the auditorium available to the general public for concerts and other evening events,” according to William Mitchell’s “Buildings as History: The Architecture of Erle Stillwell.” The revised plan, a departure from Stillwell’s usual design that put school auditoriums at the rear, made the auditorium the school’s front door, with access from the street and its set of five doors between six columns. Elementary children in the same building attended what was called the Eighth Avenue School.

• 1938: 24,700-square-foot granite gym is built.

• 1951: 7,924-square-foot cafeteria is built.

• 1960: With the opening of Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, the Stillwell building is no longer used as a union school for all grades.

• 1971: 21,073-square-foot Vocational Building is built.

• 1974: New 21,329-square-foot (now Jim Pardue) gym is built.

• 1992: 4,824-square-foot band room is built.

• Oct. 21, 2015: Commissioners discuss ranking of school construction projects considered the top three: the Innovative High School at BRCC, Hendersonville High School and Edneyville Elementary School.

• Nov. 10, 2015: School Board votes 4-3 for option 2, renovating the Stillwell building.

• Jan. 21, 2016: Commissioners delay acting on which option to choose after commissioners tour HHS. “To be honest I thought it was in better shape than what I expected to see,” said Commissioner Bill Lapsley, a civil engineer with more than 40 years’ experience. “For a building that’s 90 years old it was in pretty decent shape.”

• March 16, 2016: Commissioners receive a report from Vannoy Construction confirming that the high school’s core classroom building is structurally sound. “For the most part it appears to me that the main structure — if you will, the bone structure — is in reasonably good shape for its age,” Lapsley says. Renovation of the Stillwell building was projected to cost $13 million.

• April 20, 2016: Commissioners vote unanimously for the new construction option at a cost of $52 million. “We have vetted this thing as far as we can vet it and now it’s time to take some action,” Chairman Tommy Thompson says.

• Aug. 17, 2016: During a Board of Commissioners meeting, HHS alumnus Carey O’Cain, a retired construction manager, presents a plan that he says would cost $30 million less than the ClarkNexsen plan, renovate the classroom building and auditorium, add a 65,000-square-foot classroom building and new gyms and accommodate 1,150 students without requiring mobile units during construction. Architect Chad Roberson and county construction manager Dave Berry rebut O’Cain’s points on cost. After the five-hour meeting, commissioners again endorsed the new-construction option.

• Aug. 26, 2016: County Manager Steve Wyatt sends a letter to schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell recommending they discuss preserving the Stillwell building for classroom use “as part of Hendersonville High School curriculum.”
• Oct. 26, 2016: Commissioners reject a recommendation by the Henderson County School Board to move Edneyville Elementary School ahead of the Hendersonville High School in the construction schedule in a letter that also raises the possibility of closing the Edneyville school.
• Nov. 2: Edneyville parents meet with School Board members and rally for a new school. “The county commissioners have stirred up a nest of Yellow Jackets,” School Board member Rick Wood says.

• Nov. 8, 2016: Commissioner Grady Hawkins announces that a “working group” of county commissioners, School Board members, HHS teachers and principal was ready to present a new proposal at a joint meeting of the commissioners and School Board members.

• Nov. 8, 2016: Mary Louise Corn, Rick Wood, Blair Craven and Michael Absher win School Board seats. Wood had voted for school renovation a year earlier; Craven, an HHS graduate, ran on preserving the historic classroom building and auditorium.

• Dec. 6, 2016: Commissioners deliver an ultimatum to the School Board on Monday night to cast a yes-or-no vote on the new-construction plan, signaling it would shelve plans if the School Board votes no. “I think to go forward, where one board is in support of it and the other board may not be in support of it, is not good for our community,” Lapsley says. “I think we need to be together.”

• Dec. 9, 2016: Attempting to quell the Edneyville “Yellow Jackets’ nest,” Commission Chairman Michael Edney issues a statement on a Friday night assuring apple country voters that “commissioners absolutely have Edneyville Elementary in our sights” and that county staff was working “behind the scenes … to hit the ground running” on that project.
• Dec. 12, 2016: The School Board votes 4-2 in favor of building an all-new HHS, with Lisa Edwards and Blair Craven voting no.
• Jan. 17, 2017: With the school construction plan headed to the city Planning Board and City Council, commissioners again threaten to pull the plug on the project if the city blocks a development permit. “The decision rests clearly on the shoulders of the City Council and we will all be very disappointed in the outcome but there should be no doubt where the responsibility lies,” Lapsley says. “If they vote no on the plan as presented, that will kill the project. It will be shelved indefinitely and there will be no new school.”
• February 2017: Henderson County options a 1.32-acre lot on Fassifern Court between Oakland and Fleming streets for a 123-space parking lot. The parking lot is shown on the zoning application the county files with the city.

• April 2, 2017: In a Sunday night email to Mayor Barbara Volk, City Councilman Jeff Miller and City Manager John Connet, state Rep. Chuck McGrady issues a warning that “I’m quite prepared to de-annex the Hendersonville High School property IF Hendersonville does not handle the approval process for the renovation of the high school, closing of the road and any zoning changes as it would any other applications coming before it.”

• April 10, 2017: In a 5-3 vote, the city Planning Board recommends that the Hendersonville City Council deny the county’s rezoning request and special use permit. “I have a hard time going along with it with all the consternation that has been drummed up about it,” Planning Board member Steve Johnson says.

• April 19, 2017: After a county commission meeting, Wyatt and Edney confirm that commissioners started to look for land and explore the idea of moving HHS to a new site outside the city in the event the City Council rejects the rezoning request. “It’s clearly a threat,” Craven says. “It’s a preemptive strike, if you will, to the City Council.” “I hate that anyone would take what we’re saying as any kind of threat or trying to intimidate or influence,” Edney says. “But it’s important that parents know we’re putting the kids first and we’re going to do something to address the need. We’re going to focus on the kids and what’s best for them.”

• Thursday, May 4, 2017: In a 3-2 vote, the City Council approves development permits needed for the new school. Mayor Barbara Volk and council members Steve Caraker and Jeff Miller vote yes; Jerry Smith and Ron Stephens vote no. The council also asks the Board of Commissioners and School Board to commit in writing to preserving the Stillwell building.

• Friday, May 5, 2017: Meeting Friday morning, commissioners refuse to commit in writing to preserving the Stillwell building. Edney notes that commissioners voted last Aug. 17 “to do what is necessary to bring the Stillwell building to a preservation point by repairing the fire escapes, roof, chinking the outside brick and allow the School Board to make decisions for long-term use of the building and bring it back before the Board of Commissioners.” Later Friday afternoon, the City Council ratifies the rezoning in the same 3-2 vote.

• May 14, 2018: In their regular meeting, School Board members vent about the news they had just heard in private meetings from county officials that the $52.2 million projected price of construction does not include a second gym or a 900-seat auditorium. They demand a joint meeting with the Board of Commissioners.

• May 24, 2018: Commissioners and School Board members meet jointly to discuss HHS construction. The meeting dissolves into recriminations, citing of minutes that reported the construction price as $52 million and threats once again to drop the whole thing. Commissioner Tommy Thompson suggests closing HHS and building a new high school somewhere north of town on Asheville Highway.

• July 18, 2018: In a 4-1 vote (with Chair Michael Edney voting no) Board of Commissioners votes to kill the HHS project and put the Boyd property on the market.

• Aug. 7, 2018: Board of Commissioners grants request from School Board for a six-month period to hire its own architect and draw plans for the project for no more than $52.6 million.

• Sept. 14, 2018: An ad hoc School Board committee made up of Amy Lynn Holt, Rick Wood, Blair Craven and Michael Absher, Superintendent Bo Caldwell and Associate Superintendent John Bryant recommends ClarkNexsen, with the incumbent architect getting five first place votes. Craven and Holt place another firm first, PFA/LS3P.

• Sept. 17, 2018: The School Board rejects the panel’s recommendation in favor of ClarkNexsen in a 3-3 vote. Wood, Absher and Mary Louise Corn vote yes. Holt, Craven and Edwards vote no.

• Sept. 28, 2018: School Board votes 6-0 to hire PFA/LS3P, which presented a proposal to renovate the Stillwell building and auditorium and build a new auxiliary gym, band room, vocational education building and cafeteria for $52.4 million.

• Jan. 7, 2019: School Board sees design.

• Jan. 14, 2019: School Board approves design.

• Jan. 23, 2019: Board of Commissioners approves plan.

• June 3, 2019: Board of Commissioners awards the first of three Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP1) bids for the project. The contract was awarded to Tennoca Construction Co. for $1,351,490 for utility work including the replacement of sewer and storm drains under the cafeteria, installation of an electric transformer and renovation of the vocational building so it can function as swing space. The contractor completes the work on Aug. 23 in time for school opening on Aug. 26.

• July 8, 2019: The Hendersonville Planning Board votes unanimously to endorse the School Board’s zoning application for the project. “I just want to say what a great deal this is,” HHS principal Bobby Wilkins tells the Planning Board. “The architects and the School Board and all of the central office and the county — they’ve really done a lot of work and gotten behind this. It’s the same culture, same tradition we’ve always had and it’s adding to it and making it better for the kids, which is what it’s all about it.”

• Aug. 1, 2019: The Hendersonville City Council votes unanimously to rezone the property for the project.

• October 2019: The NCDOT issues a driveway permit.

• Oct. 16, 2019: Board of Commissioners receives a construction update, during which Edney gets a virtual tour via 3D headset.

• Dec. 2, 2019: Commissioners authorize a $15.8 million bid package, GMP2, for site preparation, structural work and demolition.

• January 2020: Construction fence goes up for phase 2 work.

• March 18, 2020: Commissioners authorize GMP3, a $33,828,544 contract for new construction and renovation plus furniture, fixture, equipment and technology. The $59.2 million construction job totals 180,468 square feet, including 91,400 square feet of new construction, the Stillwell renovation (68,166 square feet) and the Pardue gym renovation (20,902 square feet). The total cost of $59,156,818 includes $48,833,344 in construction costs and $9,299,924 in other costs: $2,415,000 for design fees, $1,100,000 for inspections, $300,000 for permits, $3,517,141 in furniture, fixture, equipment and technology, $653,823 in design contingencies and $966,247 in owner’s contingencies. The overall cost is $18,787 under budget.
• May 2021: New auxiliary and renovated Jim Pardue gyms completed in time for Class of 2021 graduation.


• August 2021: Students start school at the completed new school and in mobile units. Renovation is under way at the Stillwell building.
• December 2021: Campbell Boyd Building is dedicated
• February 2022: Stillwell auditorium renovation is complete
• May 2022: Contractor begins installation of artificial turf at Dietz Field
• April 28-30, 2022: Class of ’22 stages senior play at renovated auditorium.
• June 11, 2022: Thomas E. “Tom” Orr Stage is dedicated
• Aug. 3, 2022: Ribbon cutting celebrates completion of the project on time and under budget.

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Sources: News coverage, Board of Commissioners minutes, School Board minutes, Buildings as History: The Architecture of Erle Stillwell (2006, William Mitchell, Henderson County Public Library), ClarkNexsen reports, PFA/LS3P reports, Henderson County public schools.