School construction projects nearly double in cost

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WWAY) — This week, New Hanover County Commissioners and Board of Education members discussed a project in the works since before the pandemic. Now, the price tag is almost twice 2021’s estimate.

This could not only affect two elementary schools in the region, it could have a major impact on families with young children across New Hanover County.

With the pandemic still wreaking havoc on supply lines, construction costs for projects like New Hanover County School’s new school, new building, and planned renovations to one of the oldest elementary schools in the region have shot from $67 million to just under $103 million.

“It’s very common for construction costs to go up. I’ve never heard of them going down,” said Board of Education member Judy Justice. “But this much of a shoot up in the price, that was quite startling.”

Encompassing a new elementary school in Riverlights, a new building for Pine Valley Elementary, and renovations on Mary C. Williams Elementary, the project will address our county’s growth.

“You’re talking about planning for your future,” said Board of Education member Nelson Beaulieu. “And it you look at the population growth in our county, and you look at where these new projects are being considered, that’s what we’re doing.”

While Commissioner Rob Zapple would like to see more information on growth before deciding on the new Riverlights school, he believes Mary C. Williams and Pine Valley Elementary are due for an update.

“If the children need to go to the bathroom, they have to actually go outside there,” Zapple said of Pine Valley Elementary. “If they want to go to the cafeteria, they have to go outside and walk down the sidewalk and go there.”

With the increase in price, New Hanover County Schools are looking to new sources of funding, including applying for grants and considering bonds.

“People are just coming out of the pandemic,” Zapple continued.  “Businesses are really trying to pick up speed. So I think rightfully it won’t be in this election cycle.”

Justice, along with a few other Board of Education members, are pushing for funding the hospital sale endowment.

“While we’re waiting for the bond, we can apply to grants and also research what’s going on with the endowment. We were promised that money. I would like to see it go to the schools,” said Justice.

As of now, Riverlights and Pine Valley Elementary Schools are expected to open August 2025.

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