Last week, Orange County School Board members presented the Orange County High School master plan to county supervisors, along with options for funding it.
The master plan, officially endorsed by the school board 5-0 last Wednesday night, addresses the high school’s capacity issues while also expanding and modernizing career and technical education facilities, enhances safety and security and corrects current facility issues.
The nine-phase $34.8 million, multi-year plan would allow the school to accommodate up to 2,000 students. However, the cost projections are based on current prices and could rise if the project phases are extended.
The project is split into phases, to allow for easier financing. However, the phasing isn’t free. The project’s $34.8 million price tag is based on today’s prices and could easily rise the longer the project is extended.
In an effort to stave off any new debt, school administrators have devised three cash-only options to complete the first phase of the plan, including the track and tennis court upgrades, and a piece of phase six, namely the improvements to the Porterfield Park restrooms, concession area, team rooms and press box. Those options were presented to supervisors last Tuesday night.
The three options include “laying away” funds until the projects can be completed. The plans are based on receiving additional funding from supervisors each year which would be added to carryover funds from the schools’ capital improvement plans (CIP). The more funding received the less time the projects would take to complete. For example, if $150,000 in additional funding was received, completing the track, tennis courts and new restrooms, concessions, team rooms and a press box at Porterfield Park would take seven years, through fiscal year 2021. Doubling the amount received to $300,000 completes the same projects in five years, through fiscal year 2019. Adding an additional $100,000 each year brings the project down to only four years, through fiscal year 2018. Also, with the $150,000 option, some projects on the schools’ CIP list would need to be deferred, including a radiator removal at Unionville, replacing and painting ceiling grids and tiles and purchasing substantial athletic equipment for the field house. With the $300,000 option, the only project likely to be deferred would be the radiator removal at Unionville and with the $400,000 option no projects would need to be deferred.
“At some point, we’d need to come up with big bucks for construction,” District 5 Supervisor Lee Frame said. “But this does get you started.”
Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bob Grimesey said not all of the master plan’s phases can be spread out over time. Some items in the project require previous phases to be completed prior to their start. However, he did say some phases in the plan could be combined, depending on financial constraints.
District 1 Supervisor Shannon Abbs said she preferred the master plan to the former $17 million plan to build a career and technical education center.
“This makes sense,” she said. “You’re getting more for your money than the $17 million career and technical education building that was just for career and technical education.”
Supervisors asked that a video explaining the project be created to educate the community about the master plan. The video will be displayed on the county’s websites and also its cable channel.
No definitive discussion was had on financing the project—something that will likely develop further during the upcoming budget season.