By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
For the first time in more than a decade, Edgecombe County will boast a new school building when classes begin for the 2013-2014 school year.
North East Carolina Prep School, Edgecombe County’s only public charter school, will house approximately 495 middle school (fifth-through-ninth grade) students in the 51,000 square foot, two-story building currently under construction on its campus.
“That’s a lot of square footage for a small community,” said Jack Seguin, superintendent of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Bouma Construction crew, project contractors.
The new building will be the third on NECP’s campus off Howard Avenue Extension on the western edge of Tarboro. It has a targeted completion date of July 15, and construction is on schedule.
The last known construction of new school buildings in the county was the rebuilding of Princeville Elementary and W.A. Pattillo Schools after flooding from Hurricane Floyd in 1999. Also, five new classrooms were added on to West Edgecombe Middle School in 2001, according to the “school history” section on the Edgecombe County Public Schools web site. Calls to district officials seeking specific data were not returned by press time.
NECP’s new building will feature a high-school size gymnasium with a stage for performances, a weight room, locker room and “state of the art” classrooms, said NECP’s executive director John Westberg. The building also will include office space and a cafeteria capable of serving 100 students and a “warming kitchen.” Food will be prepared in the school’s main building.
“It’s got all the amenities — a full gymnasium, science and art classrooms, a computer lab. In the computer lab, they’re set up for 30 computers,” Seguin said. The building will also offer wireless Internet access, just as the school’s main building does.
“It will just continue to enhance what we’re trying to do, which is to use technology as a tool for learning,” said Taro Knight, director of communications/community outreach for NECP. The new building also will have data projection screens in every classroom.
The new school building will be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, with an elevator for handicapped students, Seguin said. He said the building is also a “good, fire-safe building” with sprinklers throughout the facility.
The building will have an emergency evacuation plan, which will be posted in every classroom. Knight said the school would do monthly safety drills. In the case of a weather emergency such as the F5 tornado that ravaged Moore, Okla. Monday, Seguin said the gymnasium would be a safe, sturdy place for the students to go, because it is made entirely out of concrete panels.
The middle school building will have central heating and air conditioning, and each classroom will have an individual temperature control, said Don Langlois, construction project manager. The building also has energy-efficient features.
“They have motion sensors in all of the classrooms, so if nobody’s in there, the lights will turn out,” said Langlois.
The construction project also includes a parking lot with 190 new parking spaces and a new road opening onto Husky Trail, which will become the main entrance for NECP. The road that currently serves as NECP’s exit and entrance will serve only as an exit next school year, and that will help with traffic congestion, said Knight.
The exterior of the new building will have an earth-tone color scheme – browns and red and greens.
“It really has a pretty façade for the building,” said Seguin.
While the new building will be a nice facility with modern amenities, it will come secondary to NECP’s main focus, which is academics and extracurricular learning experiences for students, said Knight.
“Our environment is based on our program,” he said. “We will fully implement the Core Knowledge Sequence curriculum to enhance upon the (North Carolina Public Schools) standard that is the Common Core.
With a projected enrollment of 900 students next school year, NECP will be at its capacity for the three buildings on campus and will have to expand further as the enrollment increases.
“We’ll start open enrollment (for the 2014-15 school year) in October and we will probably have to go into a construction phase immediately,” Knight said. He said the plan is to move ninth graders into a new high school building in the 2014-15 school year.