New Bain won’t fix overcrowding

Under-construction Mint Hill elementary school to use 1980s wing for overflow

by Josh Whitener

Construction of a new main building for Bain Elementary in Mint Hill is in full swing.

But Guy Chamberlain, associate superintendent of CMS Auxiliary Services, said this week the new two-story, 82,000-square-foot facility won’t be big enough to hold all of the school’s students.

The new building can accommodate 800 students, although the school currently has about 950 children enrolled, Chamberlain said. CMS is not building the new Bain any larger because officials would eventually like to open a new elementary school as the area continues to grow, he said. The new facility is being built adjacent to the current school. CMS plans to tear down the existing building, except for its newest portion, constructed in the 1980s.

“We feel that this is a reasonable model for the elementary school,” Chamberlain said. “We really don’t want an elementary (school) getting any bigger than that.”

The remaining about 150 students will be housed in the 1980s wing, which will serve as overflow, Chamberlain said. Six mobile units at the school now will be kept onsite – but not used – until they are needed elsewhere in the district, he said. Chamberlain said the old wing should have enough space to accommodate growth for at least the next three years.

“We’re not going to just move a mobile (unit) to get it off the campus, you know, because (the cost) isn’t worth it,” Chamberlain said. “We’d much rather have kids in a permanent building. It’s cheaper to run. Mobile units take up a lot of energy.”

Mecklenburg County commissioners approved a replacement facility for Bain Elementary last summer. Because necessary renovations to the current building would cost about $10 million, Chamberlain said, the county found it more feasible to build a new facility, which will cost about $15.3 million including design work and furniture.

The district is modeling the new facility after Charlotte’s River Gate Elementary. The building will be constructed in a T-shape, with 39 classrooms. Like River Gate, the new Bain will have areas designated for art, music and computer labs, a media center and a cafeteria/gymnasium with a handicap-accessible stage. A rock climbing wall, built into the back of the stage, will be used during physical education classes.

CMS hopes to have the new building completed by the beginning of August, Chamberlain said.

Construction update

The foundation for the new school is being set.

“We’ve moved a lot of dirt,” Chamberlain said. “We’re not finished doing that, but the foundation’s being built as we speak.”

Construction slowed down a bit last week during end-of-grade testing, but is expected to pick up when testing is finished.

“We don’t want a lot of noise going on while the kids are taking the test,” Chamberlain said. “We didn’t want trucks with beeper horns backing up. But we’re not really slowing down for anything else.”

What about old Bain?

The fate of the original 123-year-old Bain school building, for now, remains unknown.

Earlier this year, CMS, who owns the property, offered the building to the Town of Mint Hill. Unless the town intervenes, CMS will tear the building down for safety reasons.

The old school, constructed in 1889, has been condemned for seven years because of structural problems and is no longer safe to enter, Chamberlain said. Rotting windows, peeling paint and fallen bricks and roofing shingles are just a few of the visible issues, and environmental hazards also could present a problem.

Town officials previously expressed interest in the building. Community members aren’t keen on seeing a piece of the town’s history torn down, and Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers said previously if it was possible and financially feasible to renovate the building, the old school may be used as a community center, a small auditorium or simply part of a town historical tour.

In January, town commissioners approved spending up to $6,000 in tourism money to conduct several studies that would examine the building’s environmental and structural condition. Town Manager Brian Welch originally said the studies were supposed to take only a few weeks.

But the town is still waiting on the results from a study by Walker Engineering examining the structural integrity of the building. Although the environmental study by Terracon has been completed, Welch said the town is waiting on the findings of the structural study before reviewing the results.

Welch said he’s been waiting to hear back from Walker Engineering for a couple of weeks.

“There were some issues (with the building according to the environmental study), but I haven’t quite delved into it until I get (the structural) report in my hand,” Welch said. “It’s something that will definitely go to the board, but we want to look at it all at once.”

Chamberlain said the district wants an answer from the town this summer. If the town doesn’t want the building, the district would tear it down and likely plant grass in its place, he said.

“We’d certainly need to take it down before we open the new facility,” Chamberlain said.

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