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State Superintendent Mark Johnson announces $141 million in school construction grants to 13 districts

North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson has announced that $141 million in grant funds from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund will be awarded this year to school districts in Anson, Ashe, Caldwell, Caswell, Cherokee, Columbus, Martin, McDowell, Mitchell, Nash, Swain and Tyrrell counties. The grant awards will allow for construction of new school buildings in these economically distressed areas.

“Through these grants, we will help address our state’s need to replace old, outdated schools with better learning environments,” Johnson said. “This is the second year these funds have been made available to benefit our students and educators who have had to deal with outdated facilities.”

  • Anson County: $15 million for initial costs for a new Anson Middle School ($49.4 million total project cost)
  • Ashe County: $15 million for a new Ashe County Middle School ($34.9 million total project cost)
  • Caldwell County: $15 million for a new Granite Falls Middle School ($20 million total project cost)
  • Caswell County: $15 million for a new Bartlett Yancey High School ($32 million total project cost)
  • Cherokee County: $15 million for Early College High School, Alternative High School, Career Academy ($20 million total project cost)
  • Columbus County, Columbus County Schools: $10.6 million for West Columbus PK-8 ($19.1 million total project cost)
  • Columbus County, Whiteville City Schools: $4.3 million for new buildings at Whiteville High School ($21.1 million total project cost)
  • Martin County: $5.3 million for a new CTE Center ($7.1 million total project cost)
  • McDowell County: $15 million for a new Old Fort Elementary School ($21.2 million total project cost)
  • Mitchell County: $15 million for a new grades 3-8 elementary school/middle school ($26.5 million total project cost)
  • Nash County, Nash-Rocky Mount: $10 million for a new Red Oaks Elementary School ($20 million total project cost)
  • Swain County: $4.7 million for a new building at Swain High School ($7 million total project cost)
  • Tyrrell County: $637,000 for Columbia High School/Early College ($850,000 total project cost)

The fund was created by the General Assembly to assist school districts in lower-wealth counties through revenue from the North Carolina Education Lottery. Awards are capped at $15 million per project in Tier 1 (most distressed) counties and $10 million per project in Tier 2 counties. The law requires a local match of $1 for every $3 in grant funds in Tier 1 and $1 for every $1 in Tier 2. The fund was created to assist lower-wealth counties with their critical public school building capital needs. 

County applications were reviewed 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.

An emphasis was placed on projects that were far enough along in the planning process that construction could begin within 12 months.

“I thank the General Assembly for making these funds available to help schools in areas that are most in need,” Johnson said. “I look forward to seeing these projects get under way in the coming months.”



“As the ACS superintendent, I am extremely excited and thankful for the funds being provided to support the construction of a new middle school in Anson County,” said Michael Freeman, superintendent of Anson County Schools. “We will finally get this much needed project underway. Our Tier 1 county faces many obstacles; yet our public school district produces many, many, highly successful graduates who are contributing in awesome ways throughout the world. A new school for current and future students will set the stage to brighten the future for many generations of students.”


“This is awesome news. We are so excited and grateful for this funding! It will aid in providing a safe, secure and modern 21st learning environment for our students and stakeholders,” said Phyllis Yates, Superintendent of Ashe County Schools.  “We are so appreciative of the General Assembly making these funds available to Tier 1 counties across our state.”


“The Caldwell County Board of Education and the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners have had the replacement of Granite Falls Middle School on the district’s facility plan for over 20 years,” said Dr. Don Phipps, Superintendent of Caldwell County Schools. “Due to budget constraints the project has not been possible. The Board of Education and Board of Commissioners wish to thank our legislators and DPI staff for this opportunity. With the receipt of these grant funds, the county will be able to renovate and replace a school that has served the community well. We are looking forward to building a new facility that will meet the needs of our students for the next 50 years. The BOE and BOC truly appreciate the support and opportunity this grant provides. Without this program, our ability to complete this project would not have been possible. We would like to thank all those involved for their efforts.”


“We are excited to be a recipient of $15 million from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund,” said Dr. Sandra Carter, superintendent of Caswell County Schools. “Our one high school, over 60 years old, reflects outdated instructional and safety concerns that our students and staff face each day.  This award will allow Caswell County Schools to provide increased educational resources to our students and staff in a safe learning environment. We are very appreciative of this funding and the opportunities it will bring to Caswell County!”


“This grant is a game changer for Cherokee County Schools,” said Dr.  Jeana Conley, superintendent of Cherokee County Schools. “This facility will host The Cherokee County Schools of Innovation and will not only provide cutting edge teaching and learning for our Early College and Oaks Academy students, but will drive economic development as a whole in our district as students graduate from an included Career Academy. We are so grateful that NCDPI has provided this opportunity. Without this grant, our vision would remain a dream and now it will become a reality.”


“Columbus County Schools is extremely grateful to receive this grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund,” said Jonathan Williams, interim superintendent of Columbus County Schools. “The grant will help provide funding critical to the capital improvements embarked upon by the Columbus County Board of Commissioners and the Columbus County Board of Education.”


“The money from this grant will help to fulfill the need of new facilities for Whiteville High School,” said Kenny Garland, superintendent of Whiteville City Schools. “We are very grateful and excited to bring our vision of new facilities to reality.”


“Martin County Schools is very excited to receive the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant.,” said Chris Mansfield, superintendent of Martin County Schools. “This funding will enable the realization of a new Career-Technical Education Center, a project that will provide cutting edge technical programs for our students as well as enhance workforce and economic development in Martin County. We are so very grateful for this opportunity.”


“McDowell County Schools is very grateful to receive one of the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant awards,” said Mark Garrett, superintendent of McDowell County Schools.  “We now know that a new elementary school will become a reality. These funds will have a tremendous positive impact on our students and our community for decades to come. We want to thank the General Assembly and the Department of Public Instruction for their leadership in this funding.”


“Mitchell County School System is very excited to begin a project that will make positive changes in our school system,” said Chad Calhoun, superintendent of Mitchell County Public Schools. “This project will allow Mitchell County Schools to provide more resources to our students in a much safer environment. The Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund grant will allow us to build a new school to facilitate quality education for our students, faculty and community.”    



“Superintendent Mark Johnson and his staff reviewed and approved the NRMPS application for funding through the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund,” said Shelton Jeffries, superintendent of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools. “The fund was designed to assist lower-wealth counties with public school building capital needs. NRMPS has been engaged in a yearlong public dialogue about the needs specific to our oldest buildings. These facilities are costly to maintain and are not aligned with 21st Century student needs.

“I wish to thank Superintendent Johnson and the General Assembly for providing this support to our district. Also, I appreciate the collaborative spirit demonstrated by our Board of Education and Nash County Commissioners. I am especially proud of the leadership demonstrated by our Board Chairperson, Ann Edge, and Commissioner Robbie Davis. Commissioner Davis has been instrumental as an advocate and in ensuring that we drafted a competitive proposal for consideration.”


“Swain County Schools is thrilled to receive the Needs-Based Public School grant for our high school campus,” said Mark Sale, superintendent of Swain County Schools. “Swain County High School was completed in 1977 and built for some 400 students. Currently our high school population is closer to 570-600. As a county that loses over 70 percent of our taxable land to the National Park Service, this grant will allow us to proceed on a building project that would add much needed additional classrooms as well as dramatically improve our campus security. These plans have been in the works for close to 10 years, but we have been unable to fully fund the project. Our thanks to NCDPI and the state legislature for making this a possibility.”


“We are excited to learn that our grant proposal has been approved. As a small rural school district, with low student enrollment, we are often faced with challenges when offering advanced-level courses to our students,” said Oliver Holley, superintendent of Tyrrell County Schools. “As a result of receiving the Needs-Based Public School Capital Funds, we now have the opportunity to construct a state-of-the-art facility, which will allow us to provide interactive learning experiences for our students taking courses at Beaufort Community College. 

“Additionally, this will assist us in strengthening our partnership with Beaufort Community College. I appreciated the work that our team of professionals for seeking out this opportunity. We look forward to the enhanced opportunities we will be able to provide our students in the near future.”


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