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Halifax County Schools has been awarded $31.27 million in Needs-Based Public School Capital funding, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced today.

The Northampton County school system was awarded $40 million, according to the state.

The awards to the area school systems were part of a nearly $400 million grant award that will be shared by more than two dozen school systems across the state in new state lottery-funded grant awards for school construction, renovation projects and other capital improvements.

Halifax County Schools plans to use the funds to construct a new Pre-K through 8 school in the western part of the county while Northampton will use the funds for the construction of a new 9-12 high school.

"The rebuilding of Eastman has been a dream come true for Halifax County Schools,” Superintendent Eric Cunningham said. “This state-of-the-art building will serve as a beacon of hope and high expectations for generations to come. We are grateful to receive the necessary funds to build a better school system."

Halifax County Board of Education Chair Joyce Lashley said, "This is excellent news. We are grateful for the approval of the grant to build a new school in the Eastman area to serve our students.”

Lashley said a new school in that part of the county was the dream of late board member Susie Lynch Evans. “She worked on these plans for many years. Even though she is no longer with us, we are looking forward to moving on with the building plans. The students, parents, and community at large deserve a school closer to home as they continue their education journey. Thanks to all that had a part in helping make this reality come true."

Board of commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant said, “I am thrilled with the changes made by the General Assembly making this grant program a viable option for Halifax County. On behalf of the board of commissioners, I look forward to working with Dr. Cunningham and the Halifax County Schools Board of Education to build a school that is part of a comprehensive plan to provide a safe, functional and aesthetically pleasing school for our students and staff.” 

Last month Cunningham discussed the grant with the board of commissioners, which gave the go-ahead for the system to apply for the funds with the state.

In an overview of the project the school system said that middle school students in the western part of the county often have bus rides over an hour each way to William R. Davie Middle School outside Roanoke Rapids which leads to a portion of families opting for charter schools in neighboring counties.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said the needs-based grants are a key support for districts where local tax resources fall short of needs for modernizing or replacing aging school facilities.

 “Just as all students in North Carolina need an excellent teacher in every classroom,” she said, “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.”

Mark Michalko, executive director of the North Carolina Education Lottery, said support for school construction has been part of the lottery since it started in 2006.

“These grants announced today by state school Superintendent Catherine Truitt represent the latest and largest investment of those monies so far,” Michalko said. “Our state Department of Public Instruction, working in partnership with counties all across our state, is putting this money to work for a great cause. We look forward to seeing all these new schools opening soon.”

Robert Taylor, deputy state superintendent for school and student advancement, noted that the reach of this year’s grants exceeds those of previous years.

“Not only were we able to award over $395 million, we were also able to touch a district in each of the state’s eight educational regions,” Taylor said. “We were able to support districts in desperate need of replacing entire buildings but did not have the funding to do so. We were also able to support several smaller projects that, while not costing millions such as a building replacement, proved to be equally important in the funding structure for districts. A $2 million renovation is a significant undertaking for a small/low-wealth district.”

Awards are capped at maximums of $30 million for a new elementary school, $40 million for a middle school and $50 million for a new high school.

The needs-based grant applications were reviewed by DPI based on priorities provided in the law, including ability to generate revenue, high debt-to-tax revenue ratio, and the extent to which a project will address critical deficiencies in adequately serving the current and future student population.