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County's demand presents chance 'to shut this down,' O'Cain says

Henderson County School Board members appear divided on how they will vote when they take up the demand by the county Board of Commissioners to endorse the commissioners’ choice for a new Hendersonville High School. But it’s clear that two School Board members — Amy Lynn Holt and newcomer Blair Craven — are unmoved in their desire to push for a renovated HHS instead of an all-new campus and that they favor putting Edneyville Elementary School ahead of HHS.
“Do I know how I’m going to vote? Come on,” Holt said Tuesday morning, hours after commissioners in a unanimous vote demanded a School Board yes vote under threat of shelving the $53 million new construction option. “I’m going to vote to stop the project because to begin with we voted to renovate it the commissioners went beyond our recommendation and decided to do what they wanted to do. I also want to put Edneyville Elementary School ahead of the Hendersonville High School project. I don’t want to that put off.”
Holt said she’s also concerned about parking and fears that the commissioners’ option will end up costing more to buy land for that.
“That’s one of the main things we need to address is parking,” she said.
“I think what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” she said. “We decided 15 months ago that we wanted to renovate that building and we could’ve been well under way with that project. We weren’t asking to start on the HHS project right now. … Edneyville has always been No. 1 and in every board members’ eyes it still is No. 1. We don’t feel like that school is safe. It’s not OK to me to put that off for another two years.”
Commissioner Bill Lapsley, who asked that the HHS construction plan be placed on the commissioners’ agenda Monday night, said the Board of Commissioners ought not move forward unless the School Board goes on record in support of the new HHS campus.
“I submit to this board that it is very important for this project that when it is submitted that those boards receive a project that is jointly approved by both the School Board and this board,” Lapsley said. “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. I think we need to be together.”
Craven, an HHS graduate, is also ready to push for the renovation-new construction option the School Board endorsed last spring.
“I have not changed my stance one bit and I haven’t changed it now even with the threat issued by the county commissioners,” Craven said Tuesday morning. “We plan on getting together and making our decision next Monday. It’s been said that everybody needs to cool their heels. I think that’s the way to go. I understand the inflation but I don’t think it’s the right plan. The $53 million plan doesn’t solve all the problems. It creates more problems.”
The commissioners’ move had some HHS alumni searching for two more votes to support Craven and Holt.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to shut this down until they get their heads together,” said Carey O’Cain, who has led efforts by the HHS Alumni Association to preserve the historic Erle Stillwell-designed classroom building and red-draped auditorium for school use. “I’m happy that Bill Lapsley has called for a vote. I know we already have Amy’s vote and I know we already have Blair’s and I think we might be able to get Rick’s back.”
Colby Coren and Lisa Edwards voted in favor of the county commissioners’ choice last spring. Rick Wood and Mary Louise Corn voted for renovation last spring but endorsed the new-school option during the joint meeting on Nov. 24.
“Now that I know that we have to make that vote I want to give it a lot of a serious thought, maybe even hear further debate on Monday night,” Wood said. “I want to try to do what’s right for everyone and it’s one I have to give a lot of prayerful consideration. It’s a new board, we’ll have new leadership. I don’t know what we’re looking at there. It’s going to be an interesting meeting.”
Michael Absher, the other newly elected School Board member, said he hoped to find out more from top administrators about the consequences if the School Board votes on the new-school option.
“I am going to go meet with the superintendent and I’m going to go meet with Steve Wyatt and figure out what is the hypothesis if we do say no and does that mean Edneyville is going to be moved up. If we don’t move on Hendersonville we need to move on Edneyville, like yesterday.”
“I am currently gathering facts and assessing the situation,” Coren said in an email. “I encourage anyone who has an interest in the discussion and next steps to join us at our Board meeting, Monday Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m.”