December 20, 2012With public forums at High Point Central on Nov. 15 and Nov. 28 having established that the High Point Central High School community badly wants Guilford County Schools to move The Academy at Central off High Point Central's campus, some High Pointers aren't waiting for Guilford County Schools to suggest it.
Members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Catholic Church on Johnson Street in High Point, which is building a new school, have proposed that Guilford County Schools buy the church's old school and convert it into a new home for The Academy at Central.
The new IHM Parish Life and Education Center will be on the church campus, at the intersection of Johnson Street and Skeet Club Road. The old school is on the southwest corner of the intersection of Montlieu Avenue and North Centennial Street, across from High Point University.
At the public forums, High Point Central graduates, teachers and parents complained about the condition of almost everything at the school from basement to roof, including crowded classrooms, an unusable cafeteria with a capacity of 150 for a school with 1,424 students, an impossibly tiny library, terrifying bathrooms, a lack of work space for teachers, "floating teachers" who have no assigned classrooms and, above all, the presence of The Academy at Central.
The academy occupies the Tomlinson building, formerly Tomlinson Elementary School, on the High Point Central campus, but High Point Central supporters argue that the building should be returned to the school.
The Academy at Central is one of Guilford County Schools' small high schools, which use specialized curriculums and teach students in small-class settings. The academies are generally successful, but aren't really part of the high schools whose names they bear.
High Point Central supporters told the school board at the forums that The Academy at Central could be moved anywhere, which would free up its 12 classrooms.
After the public forums at High Point Central, IHM parishioner Jim Webb wrote school board member Ed Price to thank him for coming separately to speak to parents at Central, and suggested the old school building as a site for the academy. The IHM school is moving to its new building in May 2013.
Price jumped on the idea and passed it on to Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green, who, according to Price, responded that he would have Guilford County Schools administrators look at the old school.
Price said he would be in favor of Guilford County Schools buying the ready-made school.
"Jim Webb recommended it," Price said. "I've got a map and everything. I think it's a good spot for us, because it's kitty-corner from High Point University, and maybe we could create some programs with them."
Webb is a member of a family that long owned Thomas Built Buses and is active in the church.
Price said that the IHM school has infrastructure the academy could use.
"It's on two bus lines," he said. "It's in the core city. It would be easily accessible, in my opinion. It's a good site. It has a gym, and it has to meet the basic code for a school or it wouldn't be operating there."
How much the church would want for the school, if it were to offer it to Guilford County Schools, is unknown,
The school system has $69 million left from its likely defunct plan to build an "airport area high school" in western Guilford County, plus millions more left over from other projects in its $457 million building program. But the bonds for the $69 million have not yet been sold by Guilford County, and would have to be approved by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
Also, the Guilford County Schools Facilities Department has proposed a $75 million list of school repairs, none of which involve High Point Central or The Academy at Central.
Price said Green took the suggestion seriously enough to get the Facilities Department involved. He said, "The Facilities Department was going to look at it last week or this week."