Mecklenburg School Superintendent Paul Nichols presented a virtual “walkthrough” of Mecklenburg's new school complex on Monday before the board of supervisors as the group gathered for their July meeting.  Calling the new facility “an investment in education and economic development,” Nichols took the supervisors on a tour of the new facility, pointing out the security, safety, and educational features of the new facility.  The facility, he explained, has been designed with security at the forefront.  The new school will “have cameras everywhere but the bathrooms,” he said.

The gymnasium has been designed to allow for double use as an indoor track facility.

Throughout the new facility are spaces which will be available for use for various school, educational and community activities.  One of these, said Nichols, is the 1200 seat auditorium which will be available for a variety of different uses by the school and the community.

In addition to the physical layout of the new facility and its security features, Nichols also discussed a shift in focus, putting more emphasis on career preparation, pointing out that Mecklenburg County has “been one of the first to pick up on this.”  He talked about the partnership between the school system, the community college system and the continuing education centers to be able to allow more course work preparing students for specific careers in specific fields.

Of course, said Nichols, traditional “college bound” coursework will still be there for students whose career paths take them in that direction.

One way the school will be working to prepare students for the future is by starting early on having the students begin to consider what career paths they wish to follow.  Schools, said Nichols, need to look at the need and encourage students to explore those areas and new ideas.  The students, he added, are connected and will earn those opportunities.  Also, he said, the programs can be adjusted for their future needs.

Fielding a question, Nichols said that the new school and priorities will not do away with traditional SOL tests but that SOL tests will no longer be as much a subject of focus as they have in the past.  “Most students,” he said, “will be able to focus on their career pathways.”

He added that according to data, some 20 to 25 percent of students attend and complete college but that more and more, the college career lasts for six years instead of the traditional four years.  Some students and parents are now looking at college costs and returns.  Education, he said, is moving into a more personalized direction.

Nichols gave the supervisors a preliminary timeline for the project, saying that he had hopes that advertising the RFP for construction could take place on July 17 with bid proposals to be open on August 18, and an official groundbreaking ceremony planned for September 10.

Construction is expected to be complete in July of 2021 in time for opening at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Following a public hearing on Monday in which no one appeared to speak, the Mecklenburg County Board of Supervisors voted to amend the budget’s industrial refund line item in the general fund budget from $21,706,827,00 to $30,500,000.

Also on Monday, the supervisors voted unanimously to approve an application for a Special Exception Permit for an auto repair/detailing shop.  The request was made by Clarence E. Powell Jr. and Joan L. Powell on the east side of Highway 759 (Brown Town Road) approximately  1/10 mile north of the intersection with East Thomas Street.  The property has an existing shop on the property that will be used for the business.

Approval of the request was recommended by the Mecklenburg County Planning Commission.