LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County has been awarded a $15 million grant from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund, according to the state superintendent.
The funding announcement was made Thursday by the state Department of Public Instruction. State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced that $55 million from the fund would be given to Edenton-Chowan, Hoke, Robeson and Wayne public school systems “for construction of new school buildings.”
The PSRC received the grant as funding for the construction of a Career and Technology Center that will support 1,200 students. The building, when constructed, would include classrooms, labs and areas for student training. The project is estimated to cost $82.3 million. The grant requires a local match of $5 million.
Plans to build a new career facility have been in the making for at least 10 years, said Loistine DeFreece, PSRC’s interim superintendent.
“We’ve talked about that for several years,” DeFreece said. “We plan to have a construction (committee) meeting to discuss how to use the money.”
Craig Lowry, chairman of the PSRC Board of Education, anticipates the meeting to take place before the Nov. 10 school board meeting.
He is excited for the opportunity to offer more to students seeking careers in skilled-trades, Lowery said.
“This is good news for our school system,” he said.
Leaders of the PSRC are actively working on securing more funding for the project in order to make it come to fruition, Lowry said.
“This grant will be instrumental in continuing our efforts to provide opportunities for students within the district. We are thankful for our state leaders that are investing in the future of the Public Schools of Robeson County,” said Gordon Burnette, PSRC’s spokesman.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s executive director of External Affairs also shared words of support and encouragement for the project.
“As a partner in education for Robeson County and the region, UNC Pembroke is excited to support the efforts of the Public Schools of Robeson County to meet students’ needs with innovative approaches to instruction preparing them to be lifelong learners,” Kevin Wilkinson said.
“The fund was created to assist lower-wealth counties with their critical public school building capital needs,” according to a state DPI statement.
County applications were reviewed based on priorities like the ability to generate revenue, high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and the project’s extent of addressing “critical deficiencies in adequately serving its current and future student population.”
Projects that were in the planning stages, and could allow construction to begin within 12-18 months were also an emphasis of the funding process.
“This is the fourth year these funds have been made available to benefit our students and educators who have had to deal with outdated facilities,” State Superintendent Johnson said. “These grants will help address our state’s need to replace old, outdated schools with better learning environments.”
Over the past four years, the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund has awarded a total of $298 million dollars to 26 local school districts, with the construction of 26 new schools or buildings and replacement of 29 existing schools, according to the DPI.
“I look forward to seeing these projects get underway in the coming months,” Johnson said. “I thank the General Assembly for making these funds available to help schools in areas that are most in need.”
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]