Hoke County Schools gets $30 million grant in needs-based school construction funding

By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Hoke County Schools will receive $30 million in grant funding from the state for its high school construction plans, the North Carolina Department of Public Education announced Tuesday.

That’s on top of the $10 million the school district already received from a prior funding cycle, coming out to a total of $40 million in funds.

The school district plans to use the money to construct a large new expansion on the Hoke High campus, as of the most recent update from school leaders.

“On behalf of the Board of Education, students, staff, and families of Hoke County Schools, I extend our deepest gratitude for selecting us for this grant,” Superintendent Dr. Debra Dowless said in a statement. “In partnership with our Board of Commissioners, we plan to use the funding to update and expand Hoke County High School to provide our students and staff a quality learning environment for years to come.”

The school system had applied for up to $50 million, the maximum allowed for the grant, and received about 60 percent of its request.

The money was announced Tuesday as part of about $400 million in needs-based school construction funds awarded to North Carolina school districts. More than two dozen districts across the state will share in the money. The funding comes from the state lottery, and can be used for school construction, renovation projects and other capital improvements.

Local school leaders made it clear that high school construction is the focus for the grant money in Hoke County, when they met with the county commissioners this past March to discus the grant application. The county added its support to the application, and also made a pledge to consider adding around $28 million of local funds to the pot.

Including that amount, the county should have around $68 million total from the combined grant and local contributions to work on the project.

According to the proposal the Hoke County Board of Education presented at the meeting in March, the project would demolish buildings on the Gibson side of Hoke High. New construction on the site would create a contained school building with core subject classrooms for math, science, English and social studies, plus a cafeteria and gymnasium.

As announced, the new building would go where the tennis courts and the parking lot are on the Gibson side of campus. Raz Autry Stadium, the field house and the fire tower would stay. Career and Technical Education (CTE), foreign language classes and JROTC would move to the MacDonald side of the campus.

Now that the grant funding has been announced, local school and county leaders will need to continue discussions and nail down plans for the project. The actual design and placement of the construction is not set in stone and could change going forward.

The Hoke High campus has been facing crowding issues for a number of years, with calls from citizens for new school construction.

The $400 million grants “represent the largest annual allocation under the program, created by the General Assembly in 2017 from state lottery revenues,” the press announcement from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said. School districts in 28 North Carolina counties are benefiting from this round of needs-based grants.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the grants were key to supporting districts where “local tax resources fall short of neds for moderning or replacing aging school facilities.”

“Just as all students in North Carolina need an excellent teacher in every classroom,” Truitt said in a statement, “students and teachers need high quality schools in good repair that help support learning. These needs-based grants are an important boost for many districts and communities – and most importantly, their students.”

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