Gov. Roy Cooper, State Superintendent Mark Johnson, and other leaders attended a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon for a new K-12 school in Jones County students. The 123,000 square foot facility has 40 classrooms, as well as science labs, collaboration stations, and exploratory classrooms. Electricity for the school is generated through rooftop solar panels.
"Building a new school in Jones County was all but a dream the past 30 years,” said Jones County Manager Frankie Howard. “We just didn't have the revenue stream locally, so we sort of had to get creative.”
The majority of the project’s cost, $30 million, came from state funds and grants. The remaining amount, about $12 million, was paid for with sales tax collected by the County.
“To do this [the traditional way], we would have had to finance over $2 million a year, and for Jones County, that would have been 25 cents on the property tax,” Howard said. “It’s currently at 79 cents, so plus .25 cent would put us at $1.04 per $100. So your taxes would have gone up 31%.”
The new school, which can accommodate 900 students, replaces Jones High School as well as Jones Middle School and Trenton Elementary School, which were destroyed by flooding from Hurricane Florence. Students were relocated to other facilities around the county, and Howard said there was a decline in the student population.
“We want to get students back into Jones County. That’s been a major push for both the school board and the county commissioners.”
Eventually, the new school will become an emergency shelter for Jones County residents, said Howard.
“It’s been a blessing that we already had this project in the works. This school site was high and dry when the hurricane hit. We had no flooding problems here. We had in fact raised the elevation there on the site several feet prior to building the new school.”
The first day of school for Jones County students is August 26. View a slideshow of Jacksonville Daily News photographs from the ribbon-cutting cermemony.