Greensboro's African American Community Newspaper since 1967

GCS breaks ground to reconstruct schools


N.C. Representative Amos L. Quick III, left, Foust Principal Kendrick Alston, GCS Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Eboni Chillis, student Crisly Perez, GCS Acting Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley, Departing GCS Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras, Guilford County Board of Education Chair Deena Hayes. Photo by Ivan Saul Cutler/Carolina Peacemaker.

Armed with gold shovels and white hardhats, Guilford County Schools officials, students, parents, community members and local leaders celebrated at groundbreaking ceremonies for six Guilford County Schools this week.

On August 22, Kiser Middle School, Claxton Elementary School, and Brooks Global Studies; and on August 23, Foust Elementary School, Peck Elementary School, and Visual and Performing Arts Academy, formerly Peeler Open Elementary School, broke ground for these facilities to be rebuilt from the ground up.

The construction is being funded by the $300 million 2020 school bond that voters approved. School district officials plan to replace and renovate buildings, some more than 50-years-old. However, school district officials and construction partners told Guilford County Commissioners the rising cost of materials is pushing the projects’ cost closer to $470 million, which is $170 million more than estimated. The additional cost has not been finalized.

Claxton Elementary K-3 grades will be relocated to Jesse Wharton Elementary, and 4-5 grades will move to Kernodle Middle School during construction. The new Kiser Middle School will be built on the site of Grimsley High School’s baseball and softball fields. Grimsley High School’s athletics will temporarily be moved to city parks and fields. Brooks Global Studies also sits on the Grimsley campus and is being rebuilt on Ashland Drive, across from the Greensboro Arboretum.

Present at the Kiser Middle School groundbreaking ceremony was James Avent, a Kiser Middle School alumnus, who was the first Black student to attend Kiser in 1965. Avent said he hopes the district does not let schools continue to go so long without repairs.

“This was a long time coming. It’s unfortunate that we let our schools get into such disarray such as this. I think we need to make sacrifices for the children coming behind us,” said Avent.

At a recent media briefing, Guilford County Schools Acting Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley noted, “We know that moving classes to gyms or media centers for instruction because of a failing HVAC unit is not helping us in the flow of learning,” said Oakley.

GCS plans to hold public listening sessions to gather feedback on what amenities and programs the community would like to see in those new schools.

Leaders also shared that GCS maintenance services completed 5,000 work orders this summer, including 13 major HVAC projects and three roof replacements.

All GCS high schools are being augmented with body scanners this year. Additional security upgrades include updated security cameras and video management systems, and an updated CrisisGo app, an app that allows students to report incidents directly to school leadership. GCS is also continuing partnerships with the Greensboro Police Department, High Police Department and Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, with plans to help assist with active shooter training for officers.

“Every piece is another layer on security, one more step to keeping it safe. Our district really did not have a huge proliferation of guns. We’re doing this proactively to make sure it doesn’t become a problem,” said Mike Richey, executive director, Emergency Management, School Safety and Security.

Oakley added that GCS has hired 200 new teachers for the new school year and there are currently enough bus drivers to cover all the approved bus routes. There are 53 bus driver vacancies out of 405 bus driver positions.