Town council members unanimously voted to approve the renovations at Garner Magnet High School, putting a cap on a long fight between the town and the school system to get the school up to date.
The council’s 5-0 vote was the final step in the process that needed final approval from town leaders.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said council member Kathy Behringer, who helped lead the efforts to have most of the school reconstructed rather than renovated.
“It’s gratifying to see us put so much work and energy and see it come to fruition like it should.”
Construction to Garner Magnet High School will begin next summer as soon as the school year ends.
Three-fourths of the school will be demolished and rebuilt by the summer of 2018. The rest of the school will be renovated and made into a connected four-story building.
The softball and baseball fields will stay in the same location but will have some improvements. The football stadium’s concession stands, locker rooms and restrooms will also be renovated.
The main gymnasium, on the first floor, will have more seating added to the home side. There will also be an outdoor dining space where the existing administration office is. Only two mobile classrooms will remain on campus in case of unexpected growth.
The buildings will be used for JROTC and the school’s Fire Safety Academy program.
The school will have a capacity of 2,350 students, and there will be five points of access off Spring Drive.
“I think the people will be very pleased with it,” council member Buck Kennedy said. “That will be a beautiful facility and one in which Garner will be proud of.
“We waited a while and maybe it will be worth the effort.”
Initial plans called for reconstruction of only 39 percent of the building. But the district made the decision to do more reconstruction rather than renovation in April after confirming the school had mold and mildew on the walls and that it was deteriorating. Most of the campus was built in the 1960s.
The initial plan was to save two of the buildings, C and D, a few years ago. Garner High students were to have spent a year at the new South Garner High building while their school was being renovated and reconstructed.
After that they would have moved back to Garner High during the final year of renovation. Building F was to have been used as a swing space. In the first plan, South Garner would be open to its new students for the 2017-18 school year.
Garner High principal Carter Hillman, who spoke in front of the council, said teachers are excited.
“There’s that nervous anticipation of something new,” Hillman said, “but they see these designs and they start seeing what’s possible and what they are going to find and they’re just real excited to get going with it.”
While the renovations are underway, Garner High students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades will relocate to the new South Garner High for two years.
Ninth graders will use the Ninth Grade Center until the renovations are complete. After that, all students will move into the new campus. Both the new South Garner High and the newly remade Garner Magnet High School will open to their new students in the fall of 2018.
Behringer said she and others in Garner have worked hard for years to get the school renovated and the fact that they were able to get it done signifies a step in the right direction for the council and the school board.
“I think we are developing a good relationship with the current school board members,” Behringer said. “Nobody understands how hard they have to work. I think we are on the right path to getting them to pay attention to our needs in Garner.”
At a joint meeting two weeks ago, Behringer said she echoed the sentiments of many Garner residents.
“I told them other people have needs as well, but it’s Garner’s turn,” she said.