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Nearly $400 million awarded in needs-based school construction grants

More than two dozen school districts across North Carolina will share nearly $400 million in new state lottery-funded grant awards for school construction, renovation projects and other capital improvements.

Among the projects to be funded by the grants, aimed at districts in economically distressed counties, are 14 new or replacement school buildings, including four high schools, a Career and Technical Education Center, and a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school.

The grants, awarded under the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund, represent the largest annual allocation under the program, created by the General Assembly in 2017 from state lottery revenues. The grants are in addition to the state’s lottery-supported Public School Building Capital Fund, from which all districts receive an allocation each year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the needs-based grants are a key support for districts where local tax resources fall short of needs for modernizing or replacing aging school facilities.

“Just as all students in North Carolina need an excellent teacher in every classroom,” she said, “students and teachers need high quality schools in good repair that help support learning. These needs-based grants are an important boost for many districts and communities – and most importantly, their students.”

In all, districts in 28 counties are benefiting from this year’s round of needs-based grants, with 42 individual projects that include new schools, improvements such as roof replacements, renovations, and new classroom additions. Thirteen of the 28 districts had previously been awarded needs-based grants, but construction of the funded projects had not been started.

Mark Michalko, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery, said support for school construction has been part of the lottery since it started in 2006.

“These grants announced today by state school Superintendent Catherine Truitt represent the latest and largest investment of those monies so far,” Michalko said. “Our state Department of Public Instruction, working in partnership with counties all across our state, is putting this money to work for a great cause. We look forward to seeing all these new schools opening soon.”

Robert Taylor, deputy state superintendent for School and Student Advancement, noted that the reach of this year’s grants exceeds those of previous years.

“Not only were we able to award over $395 million, we were also able to touch a district in each of the state’s eight educational regions,” Taylor said. “We were able to support districts in desperate need of replacing entire buildings but did not have the funding to do so. We were also able to support several smaller projects, that while not costing millions such as a building replacement, proved to be equally important in the funding structure for districts. A $2 million renovation is a significant undertaking for a small/low-wealth district.”

Awards are capped at maximums of $30 million for a new elementary school, $40 million for a middle school and $50 million for a new high school.

The needs-based grant applications were reviewed by the Department of Public Instruction based on priorities provided in the law, including ability to generate revenue, high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and the extent to which a project will address critical deficiencies in adequately serving the current and future student population.

Over the last five years, the Needs Based Public School Capital Fund has awarded a total of $739 million dollars to local school districts, providing funding for 60 new K-12 construction projects, including 33 new schools, eight new buildings, and the replacement of 44 existing schools.

Districts awarded grants for FY 2021-22:

  • Alexander County Schools: $1.35 million
  • Anson County Schools: $9 million
  • Ashe County Schools: $17 million
  • Bladen County Schools: $17 million
  • Camden County Schools: $27.7 million
  • Carteret County Public Schools: $1.93 million
  • Newton-Conover City Schools (Catawba County): $22 million
  • Edenton-Chowan Schools (Chowan County): $25 million
  • Clay County Schools: $32 million
  • Cleveland County Schools: $7.8 million
  • Gates County Schools: $1.78 million
  • Halifax County Schools: $31.27 million
  • Hoke County Schools: $30 million
  • Mooresville Graded School District (Iredell County): $616,000
  • Mitchell County Schools: $17 million
  • Montgomery County Schools: $2.65 million
  • Northampton County Schools: $40 million
  • Polk County Schools: $1.3 million
  • Public Schools of Robeson County: $25 million
  • Clinton City Schools (Sampson County): $899,000
  • Scotland County Schools: $1.1 million
  • Mount Airy City Schools (Surry County): $1.75 million
  • Tyrrell County Schools: $514,000
  • Warren County Schools: $24 million
  • Washington County Schools: $40 million
  • Wayne County Public Schools: $9 million
  • Yadkin County Schools: $1.44 million
  • Yancey County Schools: $6.69 million

See more detail about each district’s grants here.

Quotes from local school leaders follow: 

“On behalf of Newton-Conover City Schools and the wonderful students we serve, I wanted to express my heartfelt gratitude to the North Carolina General Assembly, NCDPI, and Superintendent Truitt for awarding the additional funds needed to completely reimagine Newton-Conover High School. This is a true watershed moment in the rich history of this proud school system.”

Superintendent Aron Gabriel of Newton-Conover City Schools


 “Mitchell County School System is very appreciative of receiving $32 million of a $40 million dollar grant in funding our $45 million 3-8 school. A special thanks to all the legislators that supported this program and made this possible. We look forward to working with our state legislators in securing another opportunity for a grant for $8 million to have an opportunity to begin this project.”

Superintendent Chad T. Calhoun of Mitchell County Schools


“Mount Airy City Schools is excited to partner with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and our Surry County Commissioners to renovate our Career Technical Education/Workforce Development building. This building is essential to our vision in Mount Airy for all children to be a CTE concentrator on a specific workforce development pathway. The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund will create equitable access and state-of-the-art facilities for all students to have essential and critical workforce credentials and be ready to complete pathways to college or the workplace.”

Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison of Mount Airy City Schools


“We are very appreciative and thankful for the funding to allow us to build a much-needed new school.  Due to air quality, we closed our largest school last spring and  this new facility will allow us to continue to make a tremendous difference in our students, staff, families and community. The Washington County Board of Education, Washington County Commissioners, students and staff are grateful for the needs-based grant to make the dream of a safe new place for our children to learn, grow and thrive a reality.  We are excited about our students’ bright futures!”

Superintendent Dr. Linda Jewell Carr of Washington County Schools


“Carteret County Public Schools is incredibly grateful to receive additional funding from the 2021-22 Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. This funding will greatly assist with the escalated cost of construction. As we move forward with these important projects in service to our students, teachers, and community, we do so with great appreciation for all who have made this possible.”

Superintendent Dr. Rob Jackson of Carteret County Public Schools


“This needs-based grant will change the face of education in Warren County. As a small, economically disadvantaged, rural community, it’s nearly impossible for us to secure that much funding on our own to invest in creating inviting schools designed to meet existing technology demands and educational best practices. Our students in Warren County Schools deserve to have the same resources and inspiring learning environments as public school students from wealthier communities in our state.”

Superintendent Keith Sutton of Warren County Schools


“On behalf of the Board of Education, students, staff, and families of Hoke County Schools, I extend our deepest gratitude for selecting us for this grant.  In partnership with our Board of Commissioners, we plan to use the funding to update and expand Hoke County High School to provide our students and staff a quality learning environment for years to come.”  

Superintendent Dr. Debra Dowless of Hoke County Schools


“We are grateful for the funding to cover three of our projects and know that this will go a long way towards making our schools safer and cleaner.”

Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin of Yadkin County Schools


“Polk County Schools is thrilled to receive a Needs-Based Capital Grant to begin construction on a preschool addition at Tryon Elementary School. This funding will allow our district to consolidate student populations on one campus, improving safety and access to services for our youngest students.  Given the paucity of current available capital funding for school districts across the state, this grant award could not have come at a better time. We offer our appreciation to all involved in the process.”

Superintendent Aaron Green of Polk County Schools


“On behalf of the citizens of Camden County, particularly our children, please accept our sincere gratitude for the grant that will allow us to build a replacement high school that will serve our community well into the future. In total, Camden County received $40 million in grant funding, and that is a game changer for our new school. To everyone involved, please know how grateful we are to be included in this amazing opportunity”.

Superintendent Dr. Joe Ferrell of Camden County Schools

Mr. Christian Overton, Board Chair of Camden County Schools Board of Education


“Gates County Schools is very appreciative of being awarded an NBPSCF grant for Gatesville Elementary School and look forward to beginning the renovation process. This grant will provide many needed improvements to the school at no expense to our citizens of the county. We look forward to submitting further applications for grant funding in the near future.”

Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams of Gates County Public Schools


“The rebuilding of Eastman has been a dream come true for HCS. This state-of-the-art building will serve as a beacon of hope and high expectations for generations to come. We are grateful to receive the necessary funds to build a better school system.”  

Superintendent Dr. Eric Cunningham of Halifax County Schools


“This is excellent news! We are grateful for the approval of the grant to build a new school in the Eastman area to serve our students. This was a dream of our past board member Mrs. Susie Lynch Evans; she worked on these plans for many years; even though she is no longer with us, we are looking forward to moving on with the building plans. The students, parents, and community at large deserve a school closer to home as they continue their education journey. Thanks to all that had a part in helping make this reality come true!”

Dr. Joyce Lashley, Board Chair for Halifax County Schools Board of Education


“I am thrilled with the changes made by the General Assembly making this grant program a viable option for Halifax County.  On behalf of the board of commissioners, I look forward to working with Dr. Cunningham and the Halifax County Schools Board of Education to build a school that is part of a comprehensive plan to provide a safe, functional and aesthetically pleasing school for our students and staff.” 

Vernon J. Bryant, Chairman for Halifax County Board of Commissioners


“The Public Schools of Robeson County would like to thank Superintendent Truitt and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction for their support and generosity in approving an additional $25,000,000 in funding to the district through the Needs-Based School Capital Fund. This investment will allow our district to build a Career and Technical Education Center to educate and prepare our students to meet the demands of the job market in the 21st century. The Career and Technical Education Center will also transition our graduates to employees that possess certifications and credentials in numerous areas that will spur economic growth within Robeson County and beyond.”

Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson of the Public Schools of Robeson County


“The Alexander County Board of Education and I are so pleased with the award from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. This funding will be instrumental in addressing one of the capital needs in our school system. Awards such as this positively impact our students, staff and communities, and for that, we are extremely grateful!”

Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hefner of Alexander County Schools


“The costs of construction have skyrocketed during this pandemic. This grant will allow our community to build a much-needed middle school facility without an extra burden on the taxpayers. Our children and families will be forever grateful for this investment in our schools”

Superintendent Dr. Eisa M. Cox of Ashe County Schools


“We are thankful for the investment the General Assembly has made in our community with this funding.”

Todd McNeill, Chairman for Ashe County Board of Commissioners


“Mooresville Graded School District is excited and thankful for these capital outlay funds. These funds will allow us to complete much needed projects at two of our schools.”

Superintendent Dt. Stephen Mauney of Mooresville Graded School District 


“The addition of these auditoriums will have an obvious impact on the students at Burns and Crest high schools through increased academic course offerings and improved extracurricular opportunities. However, the impact is not limited to these schools. The auditoriums will also be used by the adjacent middle schools to each high school. Furthermore, the auditoriums will be useful and have a tremendous impact on our community. The increased opportunity for partnership and collaboration will enhance the opportunities for our students and communities.

“The Cleveland County Board of Education and Cleveland County Schools appreciates the support demonstrated through the awarding of this grant request. These auditorium projects will positively impact our schools and community now and for years to come.”

Superintendent Dr. Stephen Fisher of Cleveland County Schools


“The students and staff of Clinton City Schools are excited to receive much-needed funding from our recent request to the Needs Based Public School Capital Fund. The funds will be used to address roofing replacements for our elementary schools that have been deferred for many years and will help us avert potential disruptions to learning caused by ongoing roof leaks.”

Mr. John Lowe, Executive Director of Technology and Auxiliary Services for Clinton City Schools


EdNC staff reporting relies on staff, interns, and columnists.