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Hendersonville High School students in the future will attend a new school, not the historic HHS building that has turned out graduates for the past 90 years. The Henderson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to authorize new construction on  and further decided to preserve the 1926 core building for another public use.

The construction timeline will be shorter and the whole process less disruptive, commissioners said, in expressing support for the decision after months of study, deliberations and debate.

“We have vetted this thing as far as we can vet it and now it’s time to take some action,” Chairman Tommy Thompson moments before the board voted unanimously for a new school option, which will cost $52 million and take four years. Renovation cost of the 1926 classroom building and auditorium has been projected at $13 million.
Commissioner Bill Lapsley, a civil engineer, said all the engineering studies, design proposals and construction estimates had convinced him that building an entirely new HHS and reusing the core building for other public purposes was best option.
“There are a number of community organizations that need space,” he said. “Then you can make a big portion of this building available for them and it can become a focal point for other organizations.”
He mentioned the Blue Ridge Literacy Council, the Council on Aging and other nonprofits that could use public space. But he and others leaned the most strongly toward moving school administration and the School Board from the old Rosa Edwards School on Fourth Avenue to the Stillwell building.
“The ability to have the School Board operate in a new renovated building would be a good thing,” Lapsley said. "The facilities are there and I think we could make good and useful facilities not only for the high school and the community but for the School Board.”
Commissioner Grady Hawkins also said new construction makes sense.
“The big advantage of building a new building is the short amount of time, the savings in money and most importantly is that it doesn’t disrupt education that much and I think that should be our overriding concern,” he said. “We bought the Boyd property with the intent of putting a new school on it and therefore I think we need to proceed.”

The commissioners' decision overrode the School Board's recommendation, in a 4-3 vote, to renovate the core building and auditorium for HHS use.

Laurel Park Mayor Carey O'Cain, an HHS graduate who supported keeping the core building for HHS use, urged the board to consider reserving the 1926 building for HHS classroom space, giving it the ability to grow by 40 percent.  "This could be a win-win for all of us," he said.

The board endorsed option 3, one of five options the county's architectural firm, Clark Nexsen, had offered. That option would result in a new school with a capacity for 800 students on the old Boyd car dealership property on Asheville Highway at Ninth Avenue and called for bulldozing everything but the historic classroom building and auditorium. That also option also includes a new auditorium with enough capacity to seat the entire student body, although board members mentioned the option that HHS students could still use the original auditorium for its most hallowed traditions like Move Up and the senior play.