Why should you support this bond?
It’s been almost half a century since we built our last high school. Cummings was built in 1970. Since then, the most recent bond in 2004 for $36 million was used to construct Highland Elementary, provide other minor repairs to buildings and small classroom additions. As our community has continued to grow, our education facilities have fallen behind in meeting capacity and performing major repairs.
Higher education is also in need of improvements to stay current with employer demands. By 2020, 67 percent of North Carolina jobs are projected to require post-secondary education. Investing in Alamance Community College is critical for the recruitment and retention of business and industry in Alamance County.
How much have Alamance County school populations grown, and what is the anticipated need in the near future?
In school year ending, there was 6,940 children attending Alamance County’s traditional high schools. These schools have a capacity for 6,145 students. That puts these schools over-capacity by a total of 795 seats.
Over the next few years, the number of students attending our high schools is projected to grow rapidly due to new housing developments already approved or under construction. This will put an additional strain on our capacity.
For example, in the rapidly growing Southern district, the high school is over-capacity by nearly 400 students—in fact, some students have to eat lunch outside because of overcrowding, even in the winter. In Mebane, approved housing developments will soon add over 300 more students to Eastern, which is already more than 280 students over capacity.
Additionally, Alamance Community College serves approximately 15,000 adults each year, or about one in six adults in Alamance County. It is on target to experience a growth in enrollment of 16% in the next 7 years. The main campus is more than 40 years old. Critical programs supporting health care, science and business industries are being taught in outdated facilities.
What kinds of improvements do schools in Alamance County need?
The School Bond (ABSS Bond) will pay for the construction of a new high school, additional classrooms at Eastern, Southern and Western high schools, and improvements in all currently existing high schools. It will also fund an expansion at South Mebane Elementary to meet growth demand in that area, and for much needed renovations at Pleasant Grove Elementary.There is nothing in the bond for middle schools and the other 18 elementary schools, but this is an important first step in improving our community’s schools. Click here to see the full ABSS facilities plan.
The Community College Bond (ACC Bond) would allow Alamance Community College to create a facility for its Biotechnology Center for Excellence, as well as a Public Safety Training Center, a new Student Services Learning and Development Center, and satellite locations. Click here to see the full ACC facilities plan.
Why do better facilities matter?
Simply put, better facilities mean better student performance. Studies show that students with access to better facilities perform at a higher level. Also, the quality of school facilities is tied to a range of positive student and community outcomes. Improved student performance makes for a more highly educated workforce that attracts new business and economic development to Alamance County.
The School Bond (ABSS Bond) will help with the expansion of high school facilities, including a number of new classrooms, cafeteria expansions, and new science and technical education labs. The success of new science laboratories at Graham High School, built in 2017 with grant funding, are a great example of how improved facilities can improve students’ lives and better prepare them for economic success in the future. It is important that all students have these opportunities.
For every $1 invested in Alamance Community College, the county receives a return on investment of $4.40, with ACC’s annual economic impact totaling $200 million.
What is the re-districting plan, and how does the bond support it?
The School Bond (ABSS Bond) constructs a new high school and will support the unanimously-approved Alamance-Burlington Board of Education High School Redistricting Plan of 2017. Cummings and Graham high schools will become specialty choice schools without attendance boundaries, offering unique program opportunities for students across the district. Students will apply for admission based on their interests. The Hugh M. Cummings International School of the Arts for students in grades 6-12 will host advanced foreign language opportunities along with an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and high level visual and performing arts classes. The Graham High School Pre-Collegiate and Career Academy will offer an array of options for students interested in a variety of skilled trades, a public services academy, biotechnology pathway or an early college experience in conjunction with Alamance Community College.
These unique programs will help better prepare our students for careers and post-secondary education and allow many more choices for all students at the high school level. In addition, the approved redistricting plan is the most efficient way to make the most of our existing high school facilities while managing population growth and providing students with new opportunities.
What is the procedure for the bond process?
As of April 16, 2018, the first three steps have been completed.
- The Commissioners set priorities based on citizen concerns and recommendations from school entities. They then selected bond issues and amounts.
- The County then filed an application with the NC Local Government Commission for the authority to issue bonds.
- The Commissioners held a public hearing to receive citizen input on the proposal to issue bonds. Based on citizen comments, Commissioners may remove items or lower dollar amounts.
- A bond referendum is held for citizens to vote and decide on each of the specific issues on the bond ballot. If the voters reject a bond issue, the project may not be funded as planned. If voters approve one or both of the bond referendums in November of 2018, the County can move forward with funding proposed projects.
Is the bond the best way to meet the needs for education?
The School Bond (ABSS Bond) is the most cost-effective way to address the pressure that the growing population in Alamance County places on our schools. Currently, we are projected to be approximately 1,500 seats short in our high schools based on new housing development plans already approved in the county. Adding a new high school is the best option to increase the needed capacity to accommodate this growth. Project costs to simply expand the current high schools would cost $125 million and still would not relieve overcrowding in the Southern and Eastern zones.
It’s important to note that the schools also continue to diligently pursue grant opportunities for instructional initiatives, such as the $1.5 million Golden Leaf Grant to create a biotech career pipeline at Graham High School. They are also looking at cost-savings initiatives to help pay for needed upgrades to mechanical and lighting systems as part of the construction process.
Who will administer the bonds?
The Board of County Commissioners will administer all bonds. Bond proceeds are “public monies” and must be administered in the same manner as other county funds. County Commissioners are required by North Carolina General Statutes to adopt project budgets authorizing the expenditure of the bond proceeds. Funds cannot be spent on projects outside of the Bond order not approved by the County Commissioners.
These bonds are the minimum required to address the immediate needs of our high schools and elementary schools and to advance the work at the community college. It’s been almost 15 years since the last public-school bond referendum and most of those dollars were designated to build an elementary school. The funding will reduce overcrowding, pay for repairs and renovations, and provide new resources for job training – in science, technology and public safety. As our economy improves, construction costs and interest rates are only going to continue rising. Schools must be maintained just like any other property. Kicking the problem down the road is likely to cost the community more in the future.
Where can I find out more about voter registration and where to vote?
Now that you’ve learned about all the benefits of the School Bond (ABSS Bond), the Community College Bond (ACC Bond) and quarter of a cent local sales and use tax, you may be wondering about the details of the voting process and asking yourself questions, such as:
- Am I registered to vote at my current address?
- I’m just now old enough to vote, how do I even begin the registration process?
- Where do I go to vote?
Click here to visit the Alamance County Board of Elections website to find out more information about the voting process. The deadline to register to Vote 3 for Education is October 12th. Don’t miss your opportunity to improve education for everyone in community! To get started, click here to access the North Carolina Voter Registration Forms.