County Takes Step Toward New Snow Hill High School

SNOW HILL — Residents eager to see a new Snow Hill High School (SHHS) got some good news earlier this week when the Worcester County Commissioners agreed unanimously to fund $255,000 toward architectural reviews and pre-construction costs for the project.

While this doesn’t guarantee that the commission will support building a new SHHS when it comes time to go to the bond market, it is a step in that direction, supporters said this week.

“I’m more optimistic now than I ever have been as far as getting Snow Hill High School moving forward,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.

With SHHS falling into his district, Shockley has been vocal in his desire to see the county support the project, going so far as to vote against the last budget because he was disappointed that it didn’t contain specific funding for school renovations. However, with Tuesday’s unanimous vote to fund a necessary architectural review as well as pre-construction costs, Shockley pointed out that it seems likely the commission will be onboard this year.

“I think yesterday kind of signaled what the commission’s intent was,” he said.

Shockley did hedge by emphasizing that there “aren’t any guarantees” but remained optimistic in his belief that every commissioner wants to move forward. He said some are just worried about costs.

On the Board of Education side of the spectrum, officials all seemed to share Shockley’s satisfaction over the unanimous approval of funding.

“We commend our County Commissioners for agreeing to move the project into a staging position – ready to proceed, should the much-needed project receive the approvals and funding it needs to move forward,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson. “Their unanimous vote affirms their continued commitment to our community schools. The youth of Snow Hill need a suitable high school facility to support a high-quality education.”

There is still a lengthy process to go through before a new SHHS is ready, however, noted Wilson. But, like Shockley, he expressed gratitude the project is maintaining momentum.

“The good news is that at this point in time, we are continuing to move forward, to stay on track,” Wilson said. “We can thank our commissioners for this. We look forward to working with them to make this project a reality.”

Assistant Superintendent for Administration Lou Taylor said the project’s next crossroads will come in October when the Board of Education will have to acquire the commission’s support in moving to request funding from the state.

“When the architect’s review is completed in January 2013, the construction documents will be forwarded to the Interagency Committee for School Construction (IAC) for a state review,” Taylor said. “Getting the green light to move forward with the architectural review has kept us in compliance with the state’s established project schedule, opening the door for us to request state funding for this project next month [October 2012].”

If the process continues to move forward, bidding for the project could begin as early as May 2013 and groundbreaking as early as January 2014.

The project will renovate and enlarge the 1958-built facility by adding state-of-the art classrooms, a new media center, computer labs, science wing, gymnasium, cafeteria/kitchen, and a new athletic complex. When complete, the high school’s current square footage will almost be doubled to about 124,000 square-feet. The renovated facility will include several sustainable highly-efficient features such as a geothermal heating/cooling system, motion activated lights, thermally insulated glass, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.