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

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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 in a May 3 statement that 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, students and teachers need high quality schools in good repair that help support learning,” she said. “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.

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