Return to Headlines

District Awarded New School Construction Grant

Posted on 01/05/2021

As the world saw 2020 come to a close, Bladen County Schools looked to begin the new year with a new project. On December 31, the district received notification that a school construction grant they applied for was approved by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. 

The grant, awarded by the state, comes from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund which will provide Bladen County Schools with $15 million to build a new Pre-K through 8th-grade school in Tar Heel. Additionally, the grant has a matching funds requirement of which shall be matched one dollar of local funds for every three dollars of State funds. With approval from the County Commissioners on December 3, 2020, to support the application and the matching local funds' requirement, the total project cost is $22 million. 

The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund was established by the North Carolina General Assembly with the purpose of assisting lower wealth Tier One and Tier Two counties with their critical public school building capital needs. Bladen is designated a Tier One county.

Grant funds must be used for the construction of new school buildings only, and cannot be used for real property acquisition. 

“The new school will be built on the site where Tar Heel Middle is located and will serve students from both Plain View Primary and Tar Heel Middle schools, which are a combined 166-years-old and have become increasingly expensive to repair each year,” said Superintendent Dr. Robert Taylor. “We have more than enough land available behind Tar Heel to build a school that will accommodate up to 700 students.” 

Once the new school is completed, the existing Tar Heel Middle school will be demolished and Plain View Primary will be closed. But, the opportunity will exist for Plain View to potentially serve as a community building. “Statutorily, we must offer the County commissioners the first opportunity to obtain the property at fair market value,” Taylor said.

“We will start the process by identifying an architect and releasing a request for quotes,” says Maintenance director Rusty Worley. “I anticipate by March knowing who the architect will be and be ready to award a construction contract by sometime in June.”

The new school will serve students in pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade with general and specialty classrooms, administration offices, a gymnasium, a media center, a cafeteria, and a covered play area. The roughly 12-acre site will offer a playground, athletic fields, student pick-up and drop-off areas, bus loading, staff and visitor parking, and space for future additions.

And, parents will rest easy knowing that their first-grade child will not co-mingle with an eighth-grader. Most architects have pre-developed design plans for schools that can be adjusted for grade-level separation.

“I envision a common-area hub in the middle, with a wing for pre-k through fourth-graders on one side, and a wing for fifth through eighth-graders on the other side,” said Worley.

One of the key features of the construction will be its efficiency. Taken from the concept of a net-zero energy building, the plan for the new school is to reduce its dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.

“I want to install solar panels on the roof,” said Worley. “I intend for the school to be as net neutral as possible.”

As a reminder of the historical importance that Tar Heel Middle school plays in the community, the front facade of the new building will have similar concrete and brickwork which resembles the current Tar Heel school. 

“This will be a big project for the county and the Tar Heel community, but we are excited to move forward,” Taylor said. “The entire District will benefit from a high-quality new school building to create a stronger sense of community, improve home values, attract new families, and most importantly, develop and educate the youth of our community to prepare them for a successful future. Our children need to know that we are willing to invest in them and their future and providing them state-of-the-art facilities is one of the best ways to show them we care.”

Site prep is expected to begin in mid-March, 2021 with construction projected to be completed by the fall of 2022.