New high school larger, costlier and delayed

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The proposed Sallie B. Howard High School for the Arts and Science has been delayed for a year.

Originally, the new charter high school, which will be built behind the existing Sallie B. Howard School for the Arts and Education off Herring Avenue in Wilson, was supposed to open in the fall of 2019, but design changes and expansion plans have caused the Sallie B. Howard Youth Enrichment Program Board of Directors to push the opening date to the fall of 2020.

“I think probably these kinds of delays are pretty common with a project of this scale,” said JoAnne Woodard, founder and executive director of the charter school named after and inspired by esteemed Wilson educator Sallie B. Howard.

“Frankly we were all a little disappointed about that and looked hard to see how can we make up those delays and get it on board according to the time frame we had initially announced,” Woodard said. “When disappointments happen, you actually find that it helps you. It gives you a little more time to develop the curriculum to make these contacts with industry leaders to help us with the delivery, the design and development of the curriculum.”

Sandeep Aggarwal, dean of cultural affairs and business at the school, said the new high school is larger and more expensive than at first planned.

The building presently planned is 26,600 square feet and will cost about $5 million — more than the $4 million that had been planned.

“It has gone up a little bit, yes,” Aggarwal said. “During the planning phase when we took input from a lot of the stakeholders, the size of the high school increased a little bit. We also included renovation of a few of our classrooms and the existing gym building to make them into a large-size art classroom for the high school. So these small enhancements here and there added up to increasing the cost up to $5 million.”

The delays involve the process of designing the building.

“There are some complexities because of our future theater at the back of the new high school building,” Aggarwal said. “The design of the front of the building was a little complex to begin with. It took more time than anticipated than when we planned in the beginning and that is how we decided that it would not be possible for us to open the high school in the fall of 2019, and the board decided to move it by one year to take it to 2020.”

Aggarwal said extra time gave planners the opportunity to dig deeper into the design to meet more and have more discussions to come up with the best possible outcome.

“We were trying to rush in the beginning,” Aggarwal said. “Ultimately I think it was a blessing in disguise that we got another yea,r and also it is going to give us time to look into the curriculum for biotechnology, for performing arts.”

The Sallie B. Howard leadership has met with Wilson Community College to plan the biotechnology curriculum.

“We visited the Pitt Community College in Greenville looking at their biotechnology program and working with ECU in the performing arts part of the high school,” Aggarwal said. “So it is a great program that we are coming up with, and this extra year has given us time to really go deeper into many aspects of our high school coming up.”

Woodard said the architectural firm of Dunn and Dalton is designing the new high school. The firm has represented Sallie B. Howard since it opened for the 2001-02 school year.