School projects get OK from county

Jan. 14, 2013 @ 09:53 PM

County Commissioners have given the Durham Public Schools permission to channel $31.6 million in bonds previously reserved for a new high school into a passel of repair efforts at the district’s other schools.

Monday’s 5-0 vote in practice approved a list of projects that ranges from a $102,000 kitchen hood replacement at E.K. Powe Elementary School to the district’s $3 million share of the renovation of the former Whitted Junior High School.

The only qualifier they attached to the vote was a request that DPS Superintendent Eric Becoats and the school board explain their long-term intentions toward W.G. Pearson Middle School.

Pearson is in line for $1.8 million of the money, freed up because DPS officials have delayed construction of the new high school.

But Assistant Superintendent Hugh Osteen said Pearson’s program “is gradually being closed down,” officials not having admitted any sixth-graders there in the current academic year.

The planned renovations would follow up on other repairs to the building and clear the way for its re-use, perhaps as home base for magnet programs of various sorts.

Commissioner Ellen Reckhow, however, said the school board should be “judicious in terms of making sure the building is needed,” particularly before spending any more capital money on it, because the system likely has surplus space in its middle schools.

The only other project on the list that generated much in the way of questions was a $1.4 million allocation for asphalt work, a tennis court replacement and other repairs at Jordan High School.

Commissioner Brenda Howerton said the allotment seemed like the latest in a long list of projects at Jordan.

“Every year there’s development or renovations going on, constantly,” she told Osteen and Tim Carr, the system’s construction boss. “What else could you possibly be doing at Jordan?”

Osteen acknowledged the point but said Jordan like all the system’s high school’s needs constant attention from a maintenance standpoint.

“They are large facilities,” he said. “There is no end to the kind of upkeep that must go on, on an ongoing basis.”

The project list also includes $1.3 million for upkeep at Northern High School, $1.1 million for upkeep at Southern High, $1 million for projects at Hillside High, $890,640 for Riverside High and $688,080 for the Durham School of the Arts.