An expansion in the works for North Moore High School would give students there much more than just a sorely needed second gymnasium.
On Monday, the Moore County Board of Education reviewed the most updated plans for a 37,175-square-foot addition that would connect to four existing buildings on the Robbins campus.
The board last summer hired Morris Berg Architects, a Charlotte firm that specializes in renovating and expanding educational facilities, to design the project.
North Moore is the only one of the district’s three high schools working with a single gym, even though it has nearly as many athletic teams as Pinecrest and Union Pines. So practices there begin well before the school day and extend late into the evenings.
The expansion will also make progress toward unifying the collegiate-style campus, where the school’s 600 or so students are served in seven small, freestanding buildings. Another eight classrooms are housed in modular buildings, which the expansion will retire.
“They have come up with a very creative solution,” said John Birath, the district’s operations director. “We were only going to connect two buildings, originally, in the master plan. In this step, they have connected four buildings. This solution is going to serve better long-term.”
Expanded facilities at North Moore could be open for students in 2020 if work begins at the conclusion of the current school year.
Preliminary plans the schools floated by the board and the North Moore community earlier this year involved adding an auxiliary gymnasium in the northernmost corner of campus, along with classrooms and other facilities to connect the existing gym to what is now Building 9. But there were obstacles to that layout in the grade changes in that area, near where the school’s modular buildings now sit.
So the proposal Todd Berg presented to the board on Monday takes a different approach: still adding a new 300-seat gym to the existing one, but arranging the rest of the addition between Building 9, another classroom building, and the front administrative office.
“Like many campuses of this vintage, it’s a very porous campus,” Todd Berg told the board. “Individual buildings that are connected by covered walkways certainly worked well in its time, but given the current security conditions and for convenience purposes, trying to unify all of those buildings under one roof became a desirable goal.”
In addition to the new gymnasium, the project will also involve renovating the locker rooms for both PE and athletic teams and adding weight and wrestling rooms. The addition includes a drafting classroom, a science wing with two labs and four classrooms, another four general classrooms, and a “self-contained” classroom for students with special needs.
Construction costs were estimated at $12.8 million, or around $800,000 more than originally budgeted. The county commissioners originally pledged to fund the North Moore project a year ago to the tune of around $15 million, including equipment and furnishings.
Moore County Schools is also in the process of building four new elementary schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst, three of which are being funded through $103 million in general obligation bonds approved in a May voter referendum. Like the school in progress on Camp Easter Road, the North Moore project was not included in the bond issue.
The commissioners and school board have both endorsed a one-quarter-cent sales tax increase to raise revenue both to pay the debt associated with the bond and the Camp Easter Road school as well as to help fund the expansion at North Moore.
A quarter-cent increase would raise the effective sales tax rate in Moore County from 6.75 to 7 percent, or another 25 cents for every $100 in purchases, and can only be enacted with voter approval. The issue will appear on the November election ballot.
Also unlike the other school construction projects, expanding North Moore means building at a functioning school. The project would likely take around 15 months to complete: two summers and a full school year.
“Having an operating school coexist with a construction site presents some unique challenges, and we’ve seen those in the past and we’ve solved those in the past,” said Berg.
North Moore would likely have to rely heavily on modular classrooms while the expansion is underway. The modular buildings there now would have to be moved, as the proposed expansion will most likely displace them to the parking lot.
Building 9 would likely be closed for the duration of construction, which would block one of its two entrances. Modular units now at Sandhills Farm Life and Vass-Lakeview that will be put out of use when the Camp Easter Road school opens in the fall of 2019, could serve in its place temporarily.
Contact Mary Kate Murphy at (910) 693-2479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.