Camden looks ahead to new high school


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, December 31, 2017

CAMDEN — Planning for the construction of a long-awaited new high school will top the agenda for the Camden County Schools in 2018.

Camden Board of Education Chairman Christian Overton said Friday that the school board should get a report from the architect, HBA Architecture and Interior Design Inc. of Virginia Beach, Va., early in the new year.

Once the board has the initial information from the architect, school officials plan to establish a committee of school staff and community members to begin working with the architect on the design for the new school, Overton said.

Camden County received a $2.29 million state facilities grant this fall for initial costs related to the new high school.The estimated project cost is $33.3 million.

Overton said school officials are still waiting to hear from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction regarding some of the specifics involved in spending the grant money.

And Camden school officials also plan to seek additional funding in a second round of state school facilities grants, which probably will take place in the fall of 2018.

With that in mind, the architect is shooting for late summer to have the bulk of the design work done on the new high school.

"We're trying to get as close to shovel-ready as possible for the next grant opportunity," Overton said.

School and county officials are staying in close contact as planning for the project moves forward. Overton said the school board likely will meet with the county commissioners as the grant application period draws closer.

Although the plans for the new high school will get most of their attention, school officials in Camden also are joining their counterparts in other counties in preparing to comply with the state's class size mandate in grades K-3 in the 2018-2019 school year.

Overton said local school officials don't know what state officials might do in the coming year but are planning for the coming school year based on the information they have on-hand now.

"Right now we're planning for it to go forward," Overton said.

In addition to planning for the possible hiring of additional teachers to comply with the class size standards, school officials also are reviewing very closely the available space for elementary classes at the current facilities.

For the most part, though, the facilities discussion regarding the Camden County Schools is focused on the development of plans for the new high school. School officials are taking a close look at facilities for the Camden Early College High School, but that also is part of the overall high school plan.

"The high school complex is the main facility that we're reviewing right now," Overton said.

Overton said it's an exciting time to be on the board, with a new high school in view and a new superintendent on board.

The board in November welcomed Joe Ferrell as the new superintendent of the Camden County Schools. Ferrell replaced Melvin Hawkins, who retired in April.

"I am very positive about it," Overton said of the outlook for the local schools. "So far Dr. Ferrell has done an excellent job. And we're getting much closer to a new high school that has been talked about for several years. I feel very good about the direction of our school system."