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Guilford County Schools ready to build 8 new school buildings

The $300 million project is in the design stage right now.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — EDITOR'S NOTE: One day the entire world’s focus changed, but other problems in our community did not stop just because coronavirus was here. So every Monday all month, we'll bring you updates on important stories that need our attention again starting with the rundown buildings in Guilford County Schools.

At Foust Elementary School these days, kids must stay 3-feet apart in a building that’s falling apart.

“These walls, they move, and at times the wind blows. These walls are not as stable as we want them to be. The panels here were placed here to kinda shore up some stability," said Principal Nicholas Dixon. “Our kids they see walls that are not stable, things we have to rig to make work.  It affects their social-emotional wellness at times."

Parts of Foust are stuck not just in the past decade, but a past century.

“This is our intercom system,” he said while pointing to something straight out of the 1960s. 

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Guilford County Schools listed Foust as one of 22 campuses that an outside auditor said needs to be knocked down and rebuilt. With 100 plus other schools also in the district needing repairs and renovations. For example, this year air conditioners across the district went out resulting in major problems, according to Deputy Superintendent Whitney Oakley.

“It can be too hot if the air is not working too cold if the heat is not working. And so when it gets to a certain point, you either have to shift to remote learning or move kids to a different part of the building," Whitney said. "And it definitely disrupts the day and the learning.”

The total cost for all repairs is about $1.7 billion. But since the massive project would take years, county leaders started by asking voters for a $300 million school bond that will act kind of like a down payment on improving schools and a quarter cents sales tax that will pay for construction needs. The bond passed. The sales tax did not.

“That is a drop in the bucket for what we need," said Chief Operation Officer Michelle Reed. 

Reed said GCS will start with upgrading eight school campuses including Foust.

"We did a study on our facility condition assessment, that was one of the leading factors and identifying which schools were going to be at the top of the list," Reed said. "So quite frankly, we are addressing in priority order, which schools are our worst offenders for various reasons.”

The district is still in the design stage now talking with architects, but they do know Foust will become a robotics and gaming magnet school with preference for kids that live in the neighborhood but also pulling in students from across the county.

"It needs to change because the world is changing. And we're light years behind other schools across the country that have innovative gaming spaces, computers, robotics. We want to make sure that students have the skills they need to be successful in a global economy and for jobs that don't even exist yet. And we can't do that in buildings that look the same as they did when our grandparents went," Oakley said. “You know, our school buildings are reflective of our community. They talk about what we believe is important. They also reflect economic development and hopes and dreams of our students.”

The district hopes they can start chipping away at the needed repairs with these first eight schools. Giving voters a window into bigger plans for the future. 

GCS leaders are hoping to ask voters for more bond money:

RELATED: Guilford County Schools proposes new $1.7 billion bond to county commissioners