The need for official transparency dominated the talking points during the public-comment session at Tuesday’s school board meeting, where a discussion on accelerating the Wiley Magnet School addition was on the agenda.
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school board discussed several options that could move the addition — which includes a new gym and six new classrooms —up potentially a few months, and possibly involve additional costs.
According to options put together by staff, the addition could be ready for occupancy three months to nearly a year early, but could also cost an extra $325,000 to $600,000, depending on the option.
The auditorium at the WS/FCS Education Building was nearly full at the start of the meeting.
Before the meeting, there was concern among some members of the public that the Wiley discussion, which was not an action item, would be amended in the agenda to allow a vote — and that there could even be a vote for public dollars to make up a shortfall in private fundraising for a proposed Reynolds High School stadium. Those concerns were shared on social media among several members of the school board.
Neither of those ultimately happened.
Some observers see the Reynolds stadium as the motivation behind speeding up the Wiley project: The old Wiley gym must be demolished before construction could start on the stadium.
Many in the public who spoke stressed that the board should operate in a transparent manner. The Wiley discussion advanced to the Building and Ground Committee meeting on Jan. 22 without all known costs or timelines of possible expansions known at the time.
Others warned that rearranging projects, such as Wiley’s, within the 2016 bond package might not go over well with the public, since the projects were voted on in a particular order.
Ronda Mays, president of the Forsyth County Association of Educators, said the board needs to be good stewards of taxpayer money and stick with what was approved in the bond.
“There’s been talk that there may be another bond sooner than later, but there may not be because as what has been said over and over in the community, if certain things don’t happen and schools aren’t built the way they need to be built, voters are not going to approve another bond,” she said. “And we have to be mindful of that because if the voters don’t approve a bond that’s going to limit what we can do as a school system.”
The public comments included concerns for Brunson Elementary School, as well. A new Brunson was approved in the 2016 bond package, and supporters of that project wanted the board to know they hope this still goes through.
Michele Jordan, a teacher at Brunson, told the board there’s a hope Brunson is not pushed aside for any other projects, and that there be a new school that has been overdue.
“I just hope that that will not happen going forward and that the schools that need the facilities taken care of get taken care of, and that there’s transparency in what’s going forward with all of these projects, including Reynolds stadium,” she said.
“I get that there needs to be a stadium, but that doesn’t need to be high on priority when we have places like Brunson and Ashley (Academy for Cultural & Global Studies) and others that are unhealthy for us to be working in and our children to be learning in.,” Jordan said.
A few members of the public, parents of students at Wiley, spoke in favor of the acceleration for the benefit it could have in both the short term and for future students with the gym and classrooms.
During the presentation, Colon Moore, director of construction and planning operations, outlined the options for the board.
The first option is what is currently in the bond. The new space could be occupied as early as May 2022.
The second option would speed up demolition by two months — to a June 2020 completion — and new construction would start three months early in July 2020.
There are no additional costs for this option, and the new space could be ready to use as early as March 2022. This would even cut the use of the Reynolds auxiliary gym down two months — 18 as compared to 20 months with the original plan.
Board who spoke during the meeting seemed most interested in this option, if a possible acceleration were to occur.
The third option, 2B, does include additional costs of an estimated $325,000 to rent a temporary boiler.
Demolition under this option would be completed December 2019 and new construction would start the same month. Students would be able to occupy the new space as early as August 2021.
Even though this speeds up the construction timeline, the early demolition puts students in the auxiliary gym for 18 months — same as the previous option.
The final option accelerates demolition, but sticks with the original construction schedule, and has additional costs.
Demolition would be done at the end of 2019, but construction would not start until July 2020 and students could not occupy the new space until August 2022. This puts students in the auxiliary gym for 28 months.
An additional $600,000 would be needed to install shoring and a weatherproof boiler room for the current boiler system, so that it can stay intact while the old gym is taken down, which will still need to be demolished at a later date.