Plans for new Hibriten district middle school start taking shape

May. 30, 2013 @ 09:05 PM

Caldwell County Schools officials fielded questions from parents and community members Thursday about the new middle school set to be built in the Hibriten district – the funding for which was approved by the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners on May 20.

Officials shared an early floor plan draft and reiterated the fact that funding the school will not require a tax increase. They also answered questions about security, traffic, science and technology, and a handful of other issues.

Superintendent Steve Stone assured the audience traffic flow at the new school would be an improvement over the one it will replace, William Lenoir Middle.

William Lenoir is in a residential area with no stoplights – “nothing to control the flow the flow of traffic besides law enforcement,” Stone said. Beyond that, there’s only one way in and one way out.

The new school will have turn lanes and other planned traffic controls (and hopefully a decent helping of middle school students who can ride along with their Hibriten-bound older siblings) – all helping to cut down on congestion during drop-off and pickup times, Stone said.

Asked about school security – at least partly in light of recent school shootings and other safety breaches – Stone emphasized that the school will have the same controls as other campuses, from locked doors to a school resource officer.

He also said the new school will have less potential for “foot traffic” or unwanted visitors wandering by, since it sits away from the highway and backs up to Hibriten.

Officials also emphasized the potential of the new facility for the school’s science and technology offerings. The codes dictating the size of science facilities didn’t exist when William Lenoir was built (as Freedman High School), so those will be larger.

In fact, all the classrooms will be. That will allow students to spread out into workstations and give them space for group work, Stone said.

And science teachers at William Lenoir have pinpointed the courtyards in the draft plan as a good spot for a greenhouse – or even just some outdoor teaching space, Assistant Superintendent for Auxiliary Services Jeff Church said.

Audience members also asked about an auditorium for the new school. That’s not part of the $14.5 million plan, but it could be added later, Stone said.

He added, though, that after the new school is completed, renovations at Granite Falls Middle School will become a top priority.

Several school board members were in their attendance, including two who have seen up close the development, over nearly two decades, of plans for a WLMS replacement.

Dottie Darsie’s children attended William Lenoir, and Helen Hall taught there. Both shared their relief that the project is officially up and moving.

“This has been on our plate, so to speak, for quite a long time,” Darsie said. “Just knowing that we were not depriving our children of any education, but that there was so much more we could offer them.”