New facility recommended for Dare early college program

Published 1:11 pm Thursday, January 25, 2024

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Dare County’s Capital Improvement Planning Committee will recommend building a new facility for the early college program proposed by Dare County Schools.

Representatives from the Dare County Board of Commissioners and the Dare County Board of Education met with each other and with Timothy Oakley and Ann Collier with the firm Oakley Collier Architects.

Robert L. Woodard, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, opened the meeting. “I do have some concerns about some costs,” said Woodard, who followed with support for the early college program. “It’s critical.”

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Commissioner Rob Ross asked “why are we doing this?”

Dare County Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight responded that early college “is a level of education that Dare County School currently does not offer … We’re missing a whole level … The goal is to provide options for education.”

In December 2023, the architectural firm completed a feasibility study for the early college program at the old College of The Albemarle site on Russell Twiford Road on Roanoke Island. The architects met with staff from the county and school system. The report concentrates on long-term solutions.

The early college goal is to add 75 students per grade each year starting with the ninth grade for a total of 350 students. That number of students requires 28,715 square feet of space, using North Carolina Department of Public Instruction standards for regular high school.

Two buildings are on the Russell Twiford Road property. One building is a converted roller skating rink. This building would require extensive renovations. Tim Oakley ran down a list of items that need to be fixed, for example plumbing, security and fire alarm systems that do not work, mold, replacing HVAC system and more.

Oakley concluded “it’s more costly to fix it than it does to replace it.”

The written report, concludes exactly that. “Due to the age, complexity and costs associated with renovating Building A, OCA [Oakley Collier Architects] recommends Dare County pursue a demolition of the current building and construct a new facility in its place.”

The group asked, can we afford to build new? The answer from David Clawson, finance director for the county, was yes. Certain sales tax revenue is specifically reserved for building schools. Building new will not affect the General Fund. The estimated probable cost for the new facility as presented in the report is $21,160,349.38.

The existing site will accommodate a two-story building, said Oakley.

However, the traffic pattern coming out of Russell Twiford Road is dangerous. Outten gave information about options proposed to NCDOT, but none came to pass because options would have required NCDOT to condemn buildings and land. The transportation agency was unwilling.

Outten proposed asking College of The Albemarle if the county could build an early college facility on the college’s new campus in Manteo.

Woodard supported a separate, stand-alone building on the college campus. “I’m not in favor of online learning.”

Outten reported that when the new college campus was built, the Town of Manteo required a master plan. That plan showed multiple buildings on the site.

Starting from scratch, building a new facility will take about two years, said Oakley.

If approved by the state Community College Board and the General Assembly this spring, Dare’s early college program will have a year to set up.

So, with minor renovations in the newer building on Russell Twiford Road, the Dare County early college program can start in the fall of 2025 while the new facility is under construction.

The recommendation for an early college facility on the new College of The Albemarle campus must be approved by the Dare County Board of Commissioners and the Board of Trustees for College of The Albemarle and permitted by the Town of Manteo.

Participants in the meeting were polled. All agreed with a stand-alone facility on the new College of The Albemarle campus.

Superintendent Basnight is thrilled with the recommendation.

Dustin Peele, Dare’s special projects and purchasing manager, said “I’m ready. We can do it!”

Asked when Oakley Collier can start, Tim Oakley said “we can start this afternoon.”

Participating in the meeting from Dare County Schools were Board of Education Chairman David Twiddy, board Vice Chairman Carl Woody and board member Ron Payne, Dare Schools Superintendent Steve Basnight, Assistant Superintendent Steve Blackstock, interim finance director Anna McGinnis, director of secondary education Denise Fallon, and director of facilities Ian Adams.

Participating in the meeting from Dare County were Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert L. Woodard, who also chairs the Capital Improvement Planning Committee, board Vice Chairman Wally Overman, board member Rob Ross, county manager Robert L. Outten, finance director David Clawson, committee member Elizabeth Reilly and Dustin Peele, special projects and purchasing manager.

Architects Timothy Oakley and Ann Collier participated.