Cox Middle improvements come closer to fruition
By Amber Revels-Stocks
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
WINTERVILLE — Plans to improve A.G. Cox Middle School continue to move along.
Design drawings are being developed and are expected to be provided to the N.C. Department of Instruction close to Thanksgiving, according to Matt Johnson, Pitt County Schools’ assistant superintendent of operations.
The district plans to completely replace the 1936 wing of the school, as well as to renovate the 1958 wing and add six new classrooms. This plan has drawn criticism from several Winterville residents, including Councilman Tony Moore.
“We need to preserve the front of the school. We need a resolution in support of not tearing it down,” Moore said during a Winterville Town Council meeting in January.
Several years ago, when discussions to renovate A.G. Cox were brought to the table, the Winterville Town Council passed a resolution in support of preserving the front façade.
Those supporting preservation point to the school’s history.
It is named in honor of A.G. Cox, the founder of Winterville, who served as mayor, town alderman and as chairman of the Pitt County Board of Education.
He was the benefactor of Winterville Academy, which later became Winterville High School. It was the first high school in eastern North Carolina.
But district officials noted that the historic Winterville High School building is not part of the today’s A.G. Cox Middle School.
“The original building was demolished sometime in the 1970s, the best we can tell,” Johnson said. “The front wing (of the current building) was built in 1936 and is not the historic Winterville High School.”
Replacing the wing makes the most fiscal sense, he said.
“It will take one-and-a-half times more money to get the (1936) section up to code than it will take to remove it and build a new wing,” Johnson said.
The renovations also will increase the capacity of the school by more than 100 students, he said, and will include parking for school buses. The school buses now stop on Church Street to load and unload students.
“Our biggest concern is safety and getting our staff and students off the street,” Johnson said.
Funding for the repairs is expected to come from Pitt County as part of the Limited Obligations Bond Service or LOBS-2. The county told Johnson to move forward with the Cox renovations, including soliciting bids for the project. The renovation’s estimated cost is $10 million.
“Last month, we told (the school board) we were going after a construction grant from the state, which would give us $6 million for Cox and allow us to put some LOBS money in other places,” Johnson said. “After further review and discussion with the state, if we submit the grant and request $6 million we will lose lottery funds for five years. … We could gain $6 million, but potentially lose $10 million in lottery funds, so we decided not to go after that.”
As a result, the complete LOBS-2 package be used for the renovation at A.G. Cox.
“There’s several things that we were hoping we could do once we got the construction grant (from the state), but we’ll only have funding for Cox,” Johnson said. “We’re going to have to be creative as we move forward.”
Johnson hopes to have bid drawings available in late January and pricing back from contractors in February.