Pine Lake Expansion To Add STEM Building, Athletic Fields
MOORESVILLE – Pine Lake Prep is preparing to expand again, by adding a new $4.5 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) building and auditorium next to its NC 115 campus, and by developing athletic fields at an off-campus site it plans to buy next month.
To pay for the projects, Pine Lake has quietly begun a $1.78 million fund drive, its second capital campaign since opening in 2006.
The expansion will help the 1,682-student K-12 charter school add new capabilities and develop its athletics program, Head of Schools Chris Terrill said. The new facilities are not designed to add student capacity; he said the school believes it is currently the right size and scale.
Terrill said the new facilities are badly needed. Right now, lacking an auditorium, the school uses its gym for large gatherings, and rents other facilities – such as the Charles Mack Citizens Center in Mooresville – for dramatic productions. Meanwhile, Terrill said, “We’re begging and borrowing for fields.”
The building program and fundraising campaign were among a series of initiatives announced in a Feb. 2 letter to parents and stakeholders from the school’s board of directors. Those include:
- STEM Building – Pine Lake in November bought a 1.2-acre parcel on NC 115 just south of its administration building as a site for the new building, which will be its sixth. The school paid $280,000 to property owner Kathy Holthouser, who also sold Pine Lake the 23-acre site for its campus. The property currently is home to the tiny Penguin Palace Snow Cone Shop. The new building will cost about $4.5 million, and include a Lower School creative sciences lab, and robotics facilities (a Pine Lake specialty). Officials hope to break ground this summer and open in Fall 2016.
- Auditorium – The new building will include a 300-seat auditorium. Current plans call for a professional stage, lighting and sound for theatrical productions and a balcony. School officials say it will “help set our arts programs apart from surrounding schools.”
- Athletic fields – After a multi-year search, the school has a contract to buy about 55 acres site about three miles from its current campus. School officials aren’t disclosing details about the property until after the deal closes, which is expected around March 1. “We tried for something closer,” Terrill said, but nothing was available at a price the school can afford. Terrill said the first phase of the project would cost $2 million to $2.5 million and include development of infrastructure, and a soccer and football stadium. When fully built, it will include 6 tennis courts, separate baseball and softball stadiums, practice fields, and a track and field. Right now Pine Lake’s only on-campus field is a small 50-yard by 50-yard square of artificial turf at the center of its campus, which is used for physical education. Pride sports teams play at other schools, including Hough High, Northwest Cabarrus High and Mooresville’s Cornelius Road Park.
The new construction will be the latest additions to a campus that has grown quickly in the past few years. In 2013, the school opened a $1.2 million fine arts building and a $2.25 million athletic center.
In the note to parents, the board also said it is pursuing both accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and a renewal of its charter. The latter would come a year earlier than required by the state of North Carolina, making Pine Lake the first school to win early renewal of its charter. Terrill said since both processes require similar efforts and documentation, it made sense to pursue both at the same time.
The letter to parents was one of the ways Pine Lake is trying to stay in touch with its constituencies. At a time when some other charter schools are struggling and even failing, Terrill said the school wants to be “a model of transparency for North Carolina.”
“We need to do things that will separate ourselves from other schools,” Terrill said.
That approach also could help as the school tries to raise money for its expansion. Said Kristen Sutek, the school’s communications director, “If we expect parents to be engaged with this capital campaign, they need to know where they’re money is going.”
Paying for the new construction actually will be slightly easier than it might have been, thanks to another big move the school is undertaking right now – refinancing its $19 million in debt, Terrill said. The school expected to shift from variable to fixed-rate financing, which will save money and provide extra money to help pay for the new work.