Hoke County Schools will receive $10 million in grant funding from the state to go toward building a SandHoke School of Engineering.
North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson announced Thursday $55 million in grant funding for four different school districts, including Hoke County. The funding comes from the Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. The other grant recipients this year include Robeson, Wayne and Edenton-Chowan school districts.
The grant awards go toward construction of new school buildings in economically distressed areas. In Hoke County, the funding will go toward “a state-of-the-art facility” with 27 classrooms/labs that will support “applied studies in the field of engineering,” according to a press release from the state superintendent’s office.
The proposed SandHoke School of Engineering will be located on the Hoke County Sandhills Community College campus, where SandHoke Early College High School is located. The $10 million will go toward the total project cost of about $28.19 million. The project will also help ease overcrowding at Hoke High, according to a press release.
Hoke County Schools Superintendent Dr. Freddie Williamson thanked Johnson on behalf of the school system for selecting Hoke to receive the funds.
“In partnership with Sandhills Community College and Hoke County Board of Commissioners, we plan to build SandHoke School of Engineering which will offer the students of Hoke County tremendous opportunities,” Williamson said in a statement. “Hoke County Schools The SandHoke School of Engineering will provide additional college pathways for students pursuing an Associate in Applied Science degree, and will also address the issue of equity by focusing efforts on encouraging our female students to pursue careers in Engineering and Computer Science. Additionally, this school will allow Hoke County Schools to address the growth of our student population while saving capital funds for future school construction projects.”
2020 is the fourth year that the grant funding has been made available, according to the state superintendent’s office.
“These grants will help address our state’s need to replace old, outdated schools with better learning environments,” Johnson said in a press release.
Robeson County received $15 million to build a Robeson County Career and Technology Center, with a total project cost of $82.3 million; Wayne County received $15 million to replace and expand Fremont Elementary School, with a total project cost of $23 million; and Edenton-Chowan received $15 million to build the first phase of a new high school, with a total project cost of $20 million.
The North Carolina General Assembly created the grant fund to help school districts in low-wealth counties. The revenue comes from the North Carolina Education Lottery, according to the state superintendent’s office. Awards are capped at $15 million per project for Tier 1, or most distressed counties, and $10 million per project for Tier 2 counties.
The money comes with a stipulation: the law requires a local match of $1 for every $1 in grant funds for Tier 2 counties like Hoke.
“County applications were reviewed based on priorities provided in the law, including ability to generate revenue, high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and the extent to which a project will address critical deficiencies in adequately serving the current and future student population,” the press release stated. “An emphasis was placed on projects that were far enough along in the planning process that construction could begin within 12-18 months.”
“I look forward to seeing these projects get under way in the coming months,” Johnson said in a statement. “I thank the General Assembly for making these funds available to help schools in areas that are most in need.”
Over the last four years, the Needs Based Public School Capital Fund has awarded a total of $298 million dollars to 26 local school districts, resulting in 26 new schools or buildings and the replacement of 29 existing schools, according to Johnson’s office.