Myers Park near top of county’s priority list

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials are wondering why county staff reprioritized a list of proposed projects for the 2015-17 capital improvement plan, but the Myers Park High community isn’t complaining.

CMS recently submitted their list of the top 18 priorities in the school district, with replacement buildings and renovations at Myers Park High School ranking eighth. But county staff reprioritized the projects, which also included requests from Central Piedmont Community College, Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation and other town departments, ranking the Myers Park project at second – a nice surprise for the Myers Park community, as many describe the project as “a long time coming.”

The project would cost the county around $22,248,000 and would replace three existing and outdated buildings with one larger facility with state-of-the-art classrooms. The project also would include the elimination of some of the school’s 21 mobile units and involves renovating the school’s kitchen and cafeteria.

“It’s much needed. You’re looking at buildings that have all kinds of electrical issues, old restrooms, issues with plumbing,” Myers Park Principal Tom Spivey said. “I’m sure the energy consumption has to be terrible. We’re even looking at safety issues.”

The buildings currently are not handicap accessible, Spivey added, and are not conducive to the science, technology, engineering and math courses the school is trying to offer.

Matthew Ridenhour is county commissioner for District 5, which covers the Myers Park area. Though he’s happy the high school is getting some attention, as the school continues to grow, he understands the school district knows what projects are needed most and why Myers Park was ranked eighth.

“Ideally, I think we need to take the recommendations of CMS, as they are the subject experts,” Ridenhour said. “They know the needs of the school system better than the county does. I think we need to take that into consideration.”

At this point, county commission hasn’t discussed the rankings in any detail, Ridenhour said, but mentioned he’s excited the Myers Park project also ranked high with CMS. Also, the reopening of Starmount Elementary, a project ranked fifth with the county and first for CMS, will provide overcrowding relief for other elementary schools in District 5.

“Those are some big concerns for that community,” Ridenhour said. “I’ve heard concerns for both those projects.”

Myers Park currently has about 2,800 students. Spivey projects the school, which is one of the largest in the state, will soon grow to more than 3,000, a reason he said the project is needed sooner rather than later so the school will have the capacity to continue with its growth.

Myers Park parents agree. Marinn Bengel, a co-president for the school’s parent-teacher group, said the number of portables at the school is already out of hand. The 63-acre campus also consists of 14 buildings; the oldest standing were built in 1950.

“I think one of the hidden factors about Myers Park High School is that people associate the school with the neighborhood, kind of a country club mentality. People haven’t really seen the backside of the building. None of the buildings (in the capital project) can even be upgraded. The buildings are just in such bad shape.”

Other construction projects for Myers Park were recently approved with funding from previous bonds, including renovations to the school’s stadium, which was condemned last season, and renovations to the school’s language arts building, which is scheduled to start summer 2014. The project will temporarily add about 20 additional mobile units to the school’s campus.

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