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History shows Union County citizens support school bonds

Weddington High School Over the past 18 years, Union County voters have stepped up six times to meet the needs of its students.

Union County Public Schools, the sixth largest school district in North Carolina, has witnessed enormous growth over the past two decades.

Approved school bonds of past 20 years addressed epic growth

To meet that growth, citizens passed six bond referendums totaling $501.7 million: the first in 1998 ($52.7 million); the second in 2000 ($55 million); the third in 2002 ($70 million); two were passed in 2004 (totaling $149.5 million); and the last bond was passed in 2006 ($174.5 million).

Those bonds built a total of 23 new schools in a nine-year period (2000-2009), as well as providing many additions and renovations to existing schools.

Between 2000 and 2005, 10 new schools were built: Weddington High (2000); Fairview Elementary (2001); Marvin Elementary (2002); Walter Bickett (2003); Porter Ridge Elementary (2004); Antioch Elementary (2004); Kensington Elementary (2005); Sandy Ridge Elementary (2005); Porter Ridge Middle (2005); and Porter Ridge High (2005).

The 2002 bond added 14 classrooms to three schools, Piedmont and Parkwood high schools and Weddington Middle School. It was also responsible for a kitchen renovation at Indian Trail Elementary and school traffic improvements at Piedmont middle and high schools. 

The 2004 bond built new gymnasiums at five high schools: Forest Hills, Monroe, Parkwood, Piedmont and Sun Valley. 

Between 2006 and 2009, an astounding 13 new schools were built: Rock Rest Elementary (2006); Central Academy of Technology and Arts (2006) pictured below; Rea View Elementary (2007); New Town Elementary (2007); Rocky River Elementary (2007); Wolfe School (2007); Marvin Ridge High (2007); Marvin Ridge Middle (2007); Stallings Elementary (2008); Sun Valley Elementary (2008); Poplin Elementary (2009); Cuthbertson Middle (2009); and Cuthbertson High (2009).

CATA “The school construction mirrored the population in Union County,” said interim Deputy Superintendent of Operations Joe Delaney. “The population would go up, they would have to build another school. It was the schools chasing the population increase.”

To put this in perspective, enrollment in Union County Public Schools in 1997 hovered around 20,160 students. That began to quickly change as the new millennium approached, and, over the next six years, the school district grew by more than 5,500 students.  

Student enrollment increased almost 60 percent from 2003 (25,680 students) to 2013 (41,010 students), an increase of 15,330 students. The community, recognizing the dilemma, approved sufficient money through bond referendums.

New UCPS high school makes Union County history

The need for new classrooms in the Weddington area 16 years ago, made history in 2000 when Union County constructed a new high school in Weddington, the first to be built in more than 40 years. Prior to that, Sun Valley High School (built in 1960) was the county’s newest high school.

“It was most unusual to open a new high school after all those years,” said Delaney, the founding principal at Weddington High School.

Delaney, who remained principal at Weddington High School (pictured above) for about seven years, remembers how quickly communities popped up in the Weddington area.

“When I first drove from Monroe to Weddington High School, there were no developments on NC 84,” he said. “Look at it now. The housing developments that started around that school, exploded.”

It wasn’t long before Weddington High School, built for a capacity of 1,200 students, was overcrowded. DeLaney said that by 2006, his school had a student population of more than 2,000.

“They had no choice,” he said. “They had to build Marvin Ridge High School and then Cuthbertson High School because that area just exploded.”

Continued growth (2006-2016) raises current enrollment by 7,200 students

Even though growth in the county slowed somewhat after 2013, over the past decade, UCPS enrollment has grown more than 7,200, since the 2006 enrollment of 34,564. The current (2016) enrollment is approximately 42,000.

It’s been 10 years since the last bond was approved (2006). The time has come again to turn to the citizens of Union County, who will have the opportunity to vote on a proposed Union County School bond of $54 million.  

There are much-needed upgrades and repairs to aging schools, and additional classrooms are needed to address the continued growth in the county.

The bond lists about $42 million in school renovations and additions, resulting in 49 new classrooms that would increase student capacity.

The six schools deemed as having the most critical needs are Western Union Elementary, Porter Ridge Middle, Porter Ridge High, Piedmont High, Sun Valley High and Monroe High.

The remaining $12 million of the proposed $54 million bond will build a new transportation facility needed to properly maintain the school system’s more than 400 buses.

For more information about the $54 million bond referendum, go to UCPS website.

UCPS Communications Coordinator Deb Bledsoe
Posted: Oct. 31, 2016