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Randolph County Schools Superintendent Stephen Gainey

New high school in Randleman, elementary in Liberty are approved

ASHEBORO — The first phase of the Randolph County School System growth plan calls for replacing Randleman High School and Liberty Elementary School.


The two-phase plan, presented by Superintendent Stephen Gainey, was approved by the Randolph County commissioners at their April 1 meeting at the Randolph County Office Building on McDowell Road. 


Gainey said the plan was approved by the Randolph County Board of Education in March.


In a letter to the commissioners, he said, “This plan was developed due to the anticipated increase in student enrollment in our school system as a result of the economic growth to be experienced by our county during the next few years. More specifically, this document outlines the plan for the Randolph County School System to address facility needs and student assignment needs in relation to our current school facilities. …”


Gainey says further, “Based on the current data, Randolph County is projected to grow by 100,000 people during the next five years. This population growth will impact our school system in terms of growth in our number of students. As a result, our school system must respond to this growth in two phases.”


Phase 1 calls for a new Liberty Elementary School and a new Randleman High School. Eastern Randolph, Southwestern Randolph and Trinity high schools will be renovated. Braxton Craven School will be demolished but the land will be retained for future use as needed. The current Liberty Elementary and Randleman High buildings will also be demolished after the new schools are built, with the properties either retained or sold if not needed for future school facilities.


As part of Phase 2, a consulting group will assess the current attendance zones to identify needed adjustments. Along with that, the school system will assess the current student assignment processes and identify needed changes. 


That work is expected to occur during the Spring 2024-Winter 2025 time period. The process will necessitate a Student Assignment/Growth Management Department to manage the student assignment process, working with county and municipality leaders to monitor growth with regard to future housing developments throughout the county and handle land acquisitions for new school sites.


Recommendations for changes to the attendance zones and to the student assignment process will be made to the Board of Education.


Gainey said of replacing the Liberty and Randleman schools, "We need to either renovate or replace them. Renovating the Liberty school may be a much larger project than building a new one. … Same when you talk about Randleman High School. We cannot build any more permanent buildings on the property."


As for demolishing Braxton Craven, Gainey said, "I know that's not a popular thing to talk about. I know its history. … I respect their feelings for the history of that school, but we're not far off from having some issues with that school. And we've had no one come and want to purchase that."


He said the Phase 2 portion would predict where new schools would need to be built in regard to population growth. "As we move through Phase 1 and go toward Phase 2, it's going to be a risk to buy land we're not ready to build on. It's also going to be a risk not to buy land. We can't wait until we need it and expect that tract of land to be there for us and for it to be at a price we like."


Gainey added that he would like to begin now to search for land during the next six months for Liberty and Randleman. "I've lived this in the previous part of my career. The last thing I want to do is for Randolph County to get behind on facilities."


Darrell Frye, chair of the commissioners, said, "It's gone through an evolution to get to where we are, but these did not start recently. It did not just start when Toyota started building there. We've needed those amenities."


Gainey asked Frye if an approval of the growth plan by the commissioners would mean the school system could “start tomorrow looking for land?” Frye said, “Yes.”


According to state guidelines, a new elementary school requires 25 acres, a middle school needs 50 acres and a high school must have 75 acres.


Gainey would like both new schools to be built simultaneously and open in 2027.


Proposed financing for school infrastructure in the county, according to interim county manager/finance officer Will Massie, is estimated at $85,271,510. That’s the county’s cost after subtracting a $29 million needs-based grant from the $35 million to renovate South Asheboro Middle School; a possible $30 million needs-based grant from the $40 million estimate of the Liberty Elementary School; and $70 million to build the new Randleman High School.


Massie said the older debt held by the county for school construction will be paid off in 2027.


Before the vote to approve, Frye noted, “This discussion didn’t start recently. Those two communities have been having needs for some time.”


The commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the growth plan.