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Edneyville, Balfour top school construction list

A new Edneyville Elementary School and a combined campus at Blue Ridge Community College for the Henderson County Early College and Balfour Education Center top the county School Board's priority list for major construction, School Board chairmanErvin Bazzle told the county Board of Commissioners on Monday.

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A major renovation and expansion of Hendersonville High School ranked third, but the plans are so fluid and the construction mechanics so complicated that the School Board has booted that further along in time. The three projects would cost a total of $97 million, according to early rough projections.

In stark contrast to the bitter conflict between the two boards five years ago, School Board members and county commissioners appear to be much more in harmony about the need for new school construction. Bazzle praised the commissioners for spending tens of millions of dollars on new schools and major renovations over the past 16 years and commissioners have indicated they're receptive to a new round of capital spending for public education.

“The amount of work that’s been done by you in building and renovating schools is nothing short of remarkable,” Bazzle said. “When we first entered this phase (in 1999) we had no money. We had plans.”
Working with the School Board, the commissioners steadily funded new construction and major renovation of schools from 1999 through 2014. Taxpayers funded six new elementary schools — Clear Creek (2002), Fletcher (2001), Hillandale (2009), Glenn C. Marlow (1999), Mills River (2009) and Sugarloaf (2008) — and paid for major renovations at Bruce Drysdale, Dana and Etowah elementary schools; a 10-classroom addition at Flat Rock Middle School (2004), a major renovation and new construction of Hendersonville Middle School (2005) and a new building for grades 8-9 at the Apple Valley-North Henderson campus.
Edneyville Elementary School, which is overcrowded and uses mobile units as classrooms, now ranks first among the  grade schools, followed by less costly work at Hendersonville, Upward, Atkinson and Bruce Drysdale elementary schools.
The School Board wants to consolidate the programs in health sciences, firefighting, auto mechanics and other trades at Balfour Education Center and the Early College into one Career Academy on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College.
That leaves Hendersonville High School, which is overcrowded, outdated and landlocked — and nearly impossible to solve, constructionwise.
The School Board has looked at different configurations for an HHS renovation, Bazzle said, and not come up with an easy solution among any of them.
“Hendersonville High School is a different animal,” he said. “We have 750 kids in that campus now. It’s hard to build while you have students in the middle, and there’s no way around it. Other schools are a lot different. We have sites we can go to and build and then move into. We have five different options (for HHS renovation and expansion). The cost of that as well as the time of it puts it at no. 3 on our list.”
“I think there’s no doubt that those are three are the biggest needs that we have,” he said. “We believe Balfour and Edneyville can be built at the same time, in 18 months. The longer we wait the more it’s going to cost.”
It already is costing more — a lot more — than six years ago. The county’s consulting architect has told the School Board that construction costs have shot up from $127 to $203 per square foot since 2009.

County Manager Steve Wyatt put early projected costs at $25 million for Edneyville Elementary School, $57 million for HHS and $15 million for the Balfour-Early College consolidation. "It's a moving target," he said.
The School Board is scheduled to return on Oct. 21 along with the county's consulting architect to talk in more detail about the project. The commissioners are expected at that time to discuss in more detail the construction priorities and how to pay for them.
“With debt service going down, you’ve got some capability next year to actually start building some of these projects in major ways,” Wyatt said.
Commissioners have agreed to schedule major capital projects in phases over four years as it last did in 2011. They have already agreed to borrow $32 million to fund the Health Sciences Building, though a large portion of that debt service will be covered by lease payments from Wingate University and Pardee Hospital. Besides school construction, commissioners are looking at a consolidated facility for emergency management, ambulance service and Rescue Squad at a cost of $10-12 million.