Construction on Stumptown Elementary to begin in May
by Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – The trailers dotting Torrence Creek Elementary School’s ball field could be shipped out as early as next summer, after county officials approved funding for a new school to relieve overcrowding.
The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to spend $15.3 million on Stumptown Elementary School, allowing construction to begin this spring and the school to open at the beginning of the 2013 school year.
“I could probably throw a stone and hit Torrence Creek – I’m by there everyday, practically,” said commissioner Karen Bentley, who represents the Lake Norman area. “I’ve seen it and I know the challenges (the school) faces, so … I look forward to being at the groundbreaking.”
Although the board was scheduled to vote later this spring, Bentley worked to place the bond ordinance on the board’s agenda for its Tuesday, Feb. 7, meeting so that construction could begin in time for the school to open in 2013. With approval out of the way, shovels should be in the ground by May, commissioners said.
“Based on analysis of our cashflow, we have sufficient cash on hand to give CMS the ability to start that project sooner, assuming that they do meet their self-imposed deadline of August 2013,” said county Finance Director Dena Diorio.
The fight to open the Stumptown Road school began four years ago when the public overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum giving the county the go-ahead to spend the money and county officials made plans to open the school in 2010. In 2009, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools placed the school high on a three-year district capital project priority list, but a debt moratorium, lifted last year, indefinitely placed the school on hold.
Meanwhile, Torrence Creek’s enrollment continued to skyrocket. Built for about 750 students, the school’s enrollment now stands at about 1,300 and was projected to exceed 1,400 by 2013 without the construction of Stumptown Elementary. Mobile classrooms cover the school’s ball fields and playgrounds, forcing students to take recess on asphalt parking lots.
The project hit another snag last summer when, using a rubric, the county incorporated the school district’s priority list into its own capital project priority list, and Stumptown Elementary came up as the 26th most important project. To receive immediate funding approval, a project had to rank at least 18th in importance.
“Trailers alone are not the problem. The aesthetics are not the problem,” Torrence Creek parent Shannon Vecchiarello said. “Educating 650 students outside in 30 trailers without the oversight and security that the main building provides will hopefully be viewed as a safety hazard under future definition of the (county) rubric.”
She added that students in the three grades housed in trailers, more than half the school, waste a total of about seven instructional days per year because of the four additional minutes needed to walk from the trailers to the cafeteria, media center and other classes, Vecchiarello said.
Children with life-threatening conditions are placed at risk because of the long walk from the classroom to the school nurse, Vecchiarello said.
School officials have indicated that the new school will incorporate floor plans similar to Long Creek Elementary School be located across from Huntersville’s McAuley subdivision on Stumptown Road. The two-story, 39-classroom building will have room for about 800 students, drawn from Huntersville and Cornelius.