The Halifax County School board approved a contract with a company to take a fresh look at a years-old question: should the high school be renovated or rebuilt?

The Halifax County School Board has entered into a pre-construction service contract with the same company that renovated Halifax County Middle School to take a fresh look at Halifax County High School.

Branch Builds, formerly known as Branch & Associates, completed renovations to the middle school in 2007, and on Tuesday, school board members tasked them with completing a study of the high school to see where to go from here.

School board members made the decision Tuesday afternoon after a day-long retreat at the middle school where they completed board training, set goals for the upcoming school year and after a closed session, voted to extend a contract to Branch Builds for phase 1 for preconstruction services at a cost of $60,000.

Upon a motion by ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman, seconded by vice-chairman Todd Moser, the board unanimously voted to approve an interim contract project analysis and planning for the high school project with Branch Builds.

“COVID is changing how we promote learning, and now we can look at what to do to the building and what to do to the operations,” said superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg on Wednesday.

For the past few years, much work has been done on the discussion of whether or not to renovate or rebuild the high school with tours of the school, public input sought, community meetings and facility studies.

In November 2019, the county passed a referendum that allowed for supervisors to implement a 1% sales tax incentive with funding allocated toward construction or renovation of local schools, which went into affect in July.

Also in 2019, Grimm + Parker Architects with English Construction, Moseley Architects and RRMM Architects with Branch Builds submitted architectural and engineering proposals.

The facilities committee then decided to move forward with Branch Builds coupled with RRMM Architects and English Construction coupled with Grimm + Parker to the detail phase.

A joint facilities committee was formed of two school board members and two members of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors along with others.

Just as they began meetings and began setting up community meetings last year, the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March, putting everything on hold.

According to the interim agreement between the school board and Branch Builds approved Tuesday, “this ‘inactivity period’ has created a major change in resource availability, costs and a major change in the instructional delivery paradigm for all school divisions. These factors, along with a positive projected sales tax revenue for the Halifax County Public Schools capital projects has prompted the necessity for further planning and recommendations with regard to the scope and sequence of the high school project to best preserve revenue to address additional school division capital needs/projects.”

With this contract, Branch Builds has been tasked with providing design-build preconstruction services, with design consulting provided by RRMM Architects, for the project, and “at the option of the owner, will enter into an agreement for construction of the project.”

The preconstruction services are to include a review of the comprehensive needs of the schools considering a post-COVID-19 educational approach, which is pre-design work intended “to be the springboard to evaluate current needs and prepare for commencement of design activities in Phase 2.”

This first phase of the project is anticipated to last two to three months.

It also does not mean that a decision has been made on whether or not to rebuild or renovate the high school, a decision that will be made later by the board.