Craven County Board of Education seeking grants for new elementary school construction

Craven County Board of Education
The Craven County Board of Education is seeking state grants for the construction of two new elementary schools and the expansion of a middle school. 

During their Dec. 18 meeting, Craven County Commissioners authorized Chairman Jason Jones to sign an application for three Needs‐Based Public School Capital Fund grants, which are awarded to assist counties with critical public school building capital needs. 

Grants from the NBPSCF are funded with revenue from the N.C. Education Lottery and are available to counties for construction of new school buildings and additions, repairs and renovations of existing school facilities.

The deadline for the grant applications, which requires approval from both the Board of Commissioners and Board of Education, is Jan. 5, 2024.

Stacy Lee, chief officer of Systems and Operations for Craven County Schools, explained that the three grant applications will be for the expansion of Tucker Creek Middle School and the construction of new elementary schools in the New Bern and Havelock areas.

Lee said the expansion of Tucker Creek Middle would come with a total cost of $17,996,750 and would provide for the possible closure of Havelock Middle School. 

Construction of a new elementary school in New Bern would cost an estimated $50,135,710, Lee said, and would provide for the possible closure of Trent Park Elementary School and Oaks Road Academy. 

According to Lee a new elementary in the Havelock area would also cost around $50,135,710, with the possibility of closing Arthur Edwards Elementary School. He said the project would provide relief from overcrowding in surrounding elementary schools as well.

The NBPSCF grants are awarded in the following amounts: up to $42 million for an elementary school; up to $52 million for a middle school; and up to $62 million for a high school.

Lee said the three applications stand on their own and will be considered individually. Lee said he was confident that Craven County could make a strong case for receiving the grants, although more economically distressed counties, designated as Tier 1, may stand a better chance.

“Our applications are very strong in most of the criteria. We’re able to do away with very old facilities, we’re able to combine schools into one,” Lee told commissioners. “The criteria we struggle with is we’re a Tier 2 county and we’re competing against Tier 1 counties.” 

County Commission Chairman Jones said he and Vice Chairman Dennis Bucher had met with Lee and CCS Superintendent Wendy Miller over the last several months to discuss the grant applications. 

“I hate to say it this way but it’s a long shot that we will get it just because of the tier system,” Jones said. “But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It would be a blessing to the taxpayers of this county though if we were to receive any of these grants to assist us.”

At their Nov. 17 meeting, the Board of Education directed Lee to seek bids for cleaning services at Havelock Elementary School due to what he described as “fungal growth” on the surfaces at the school that was discovered at the end of the summer. He said a limited mold assessment had been performed by the environmental company Matrix Health and Safety and issued on Sept. 5.

“The results of that came back and even though they weren’t terrible they rose to the level where we weren’t comfortable proceeding with cleaning or taking care of this ourself,” Lee told the board. 

Lee had initially asked the BOE to approve $400,000 for remediation and restoration services for Havelock Elementary for the cleaning of surfaces and ductwork to be completed during winter break. He said a previous project of similar scope had been performed at Tucker Creek Elementary following Hurricane Florence for $287,684 without ductwork cleaning. 

BOE Chairman Jennifer Dacey and Commissioners Kelli Muse and Brent Manning asked that the work be put out for bid. 

New Bern Now contacted Jennifer Wagner, director of Public Relations for Craven County Schools, asking for an update on the Havelock Elementary cleaning project. Wagner said she would attempt to get an answer but that a response may be delayed due to the holiday break.

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.