If voters do not approve an upcoming bond referendum to construct a new middle school off Rinehardt Road, portable “mega units” will likely be installed at the Mooresville Graded School District campuses that are already at or over capacity to house the growing population of students in southern Iredell County.
That’s according to Mooresville Graded School District Superintendent Stephen Mauney who led the second of seven public meetings Tuesday held to inform the community about the Iredell County School Bond referendum on the March 3 ballot.
Capital improvement funds will also likely be diverted to purchase these portable mega-unit classrooms costing $500,000 each, if the bond is not approved, Mauney said. This would have a “detrimental impact on our ability to maintain quality facilities,” he continued.
Additionally, if voters do not approve the upcoming bond package, MGSD school officials will have to redistrict current neighborhoods to accommodate future growth, Mauney said.
“I can’t emphasize enough the dire need that Mooresville Graded has for additional seats and we think that our plan is the most efficient, economical way to address the capacity needs we have at both the middle and the elementary level,“ Mauney said.
The county’s plan is this:
One bond on the March 3 ballot will ask voters whether to fund two projects: the construction of a $35 million, 900-seat new middle school on 70 acres off Rinehardt Road in the MGSD and an $80 million, 1,600-seat new high school in southern Iredell County in the Iredell-Statesville School District.
A second, separate bond on the March 3 ballot will ask voters to approve the construction of a $10.5 million new public safety training center at Mitchell Community College for the expansion of public safety and emergency services sector career training.
Tuesday’s sparsely attended meeting at Park View Elementary School primarily dealt with the first education bond directly affecting the MGSD.
The construction of the two new schools will alleviate overcrowding at Mooresville Middle School and Lake Norman and South Iredell High schools, school officials have said. This education bond package totals $115 million.
If approved, the new middle school will allow for the reconfiguration of grade levels which will free up space at most MGSD schools, Mauney said. Rocky River, Park View and South elementary schools, already at or over capacity, will be able to move students currently utilizing portable classrooms to inside the school buildings by housing grades K-2 instead of current grades K-3, Mauney said. The district’s two intermediate school will house grades 3-5 instead of the current grades 4-6 and the two middle schools will house grades 6-8 instead of the one middle school housing grades 7-8. Mooresville High School will remain the same and house grades 9-12, he said.
Mauney said the MGSD has been behind in capacity issues since a 2014 bond did not include the construction of the middle school at that time. The recession made county commissioners hesitant to ask the public to approve a bond then for a new middle school and with the influx of students in the district, elementary and middle schools have been filled to capacity, he said.
Iredell County’s population has increased nearly 14 percent in the last 10 years, and with more than 13,000 housing units already approved to be built in the southern end of the county, the time to build a new middle school is now, said MGSD Chief Communication Officer Tanae McLean.
The school-owned property on Rinehardt Road where the middle school is proposed to be built has enough land to house a new elementary school as the county population is projected to grow over the next decade, school officials said.
If the bond is approved in March, Mauney said the district is still three years away from actually opening the doors of the new middle school.
To fund the education bond, property taxes would increase by one cent per $100 tax valuation, said MGSD Chief Financial Officer Terry Haas. A family would see a tax increase of $15 annually for a home valued at $150,000, officials have said.
Even with this projected tax increase to 53.75 cents per $100 of valuation, Iredell County would still have one of the lowest tax rates in the region due to businesses moving here because of the impressive school system, McLean said.
But to continue to make the school system great, the MGSD has to provide space for the families moving to the area, school officials said. State law prohibits impact fees from being assessed against residential developers, McLean said, and so the onus falls to the school district to provide facilities for students.
“This is the most efficient and most fair way to do that,” McLean said, of the proposed bond.
MGSD Board of Education Member Debbie Marsh said Tuesday the bond is not asking for excessive things. Instead, the bond only asks for “necessities,” she said. “These are just about having a seat for the children in our county,” Marsh said.
MGSD Board of Education Chairman Roger Hyatt said the district is forced to accommodate conditions it didn’t create, including the state-mandated classroom size at elementary schools. “We’ve got a plan, and I think it’s a very creative plan,” Hyatt said.
Mauney encouraged people with questions to contact him about the proposed bond at the MGSD central office.
The school district will host other meetings about the bond at 6:30 p.m. at the following locations:
- Jan. 30 at Mooresville Intermediate School
- Feb. 6 at both South Elementary and Mooresville Middle schools
- Feb. 20 at East Mooresville Intermediate School
- Feb. 25 at Rocky River Elementary School