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The Wilson Academy of Applied Technology is building a new high school at Wilson Community College’s Lee Technology Center.
Wilson County Schools was informed Friday in a letter from State Superintendent Mark Johnson that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction has approved its application for $15 million in funding through the 2019-20 Needs-Based School Capital Fund.
“We all had our fingers crossed, and we were hoping so,” Krystal Cox, WAAT’s principal, said Monday at the academy’s current location at Beddingfield High School.
“Words cannot express the joy I have that we were selected to receive this funding,” Cox said. “This will allow WAAT to create its own identity and expand the opportunities we can provide our students and community. We have created a positive, family-oriented environment, and now we will officially have a place to call home.”
It’s not clear when the project will begin.
“There are a lot of steps we have to take before the shovel hits the ground,” Cox said.
Wilson County provided a $5 million commitment to fund the roughly 75,000 square-foot, three-story facility to be built in the gap between the Lee Technology Center’s automotive technology building and the applied technology building.
Only rough architectural specs have been drawn for the new WAAT building.
“We congratulate Wilson County Schools and are excited to support the new Wilson Academy of Applied Technology facility,” said Wilson County Manager Denise Stinagle. “We value Wilson County Schools students, and we know investing in them is an investment in our county’s future.”
According to the application submitted to the state, the building had letters of support from numerous businesses, banks, students, state and federal elected officials and leaders in education and government, including former Gov. Jim Hunt, a Wilson County resident.
“Securing this funding represents the power of partnerships,” said Wilson County Schools Superintendent Lane Mills. “I am so appreciative of the support from the Wilson County commissioners, Wilson Community College, Wilson Community College Foundation and all of the industry leaders who serve on the Wilson Academy of Applied Technology Advisory Board. This is a great day for WAAT, Wilson County Schools and for Wilson County.”
“I am excited for the students and staff at WAAT who are going to benefit greatly from a state-of-the-art facility on the campus of Wilson Community College. This facility will also benefit students at the community college who will have access to lab space and other resources,” Mills said. “WAAT has seen tremendous success since it opened in the fall of 2016, and I believe moving into a new building with more space that the students and staff can call their own is going to take the program to new heights. I am especially proud of and excited for Principal Krystal Cox, who has been instrumental in WAAT’s success from the very beginning.”
Wilson Community College President Tim Wright said the college has been behind the idea of locating the high school at the site since it was first proposed several months ago.
The college suspended plans it had for renovation of some buildings at the site to allow for the WAAT high school plans to come together.
“It looks like we are about ready to make some progress, so we are very happy about that,” Wright said. “The WAAT high school is an early college high school which is for students who are especially interested in the technical and trade areas, and that’s what we have over at the Lee Technology Center, so that high school would be right in the middle of most of those programs that we have and are planning at some point to move over there, so it is a perfect location for that high school. Both the Wilson Community College Foundation and the Wilson Community College Board of Trustees and all the folks at the college are ready to do everything we can to cooperate with the county and with the school system and with the state to get that done.”
David West, chairman of the Wilson Community College Board of Trustees, said he welcomes the new building.
“We feel like the building will be an important part of the campus, and the shared facility will be a benefit to the students of Wilson Community College,” West said. “The WAAT program is based on training for technology, and those are a part of that campus, the Lee Technology Center, so we think it will be beneficial to all concerned. The high school will fit in great. Our intent is to get the letter out to the school system stating our support for the high school going there.”
Both the WCC Board of Trustees and the Wilson County Board of Education have expressed support for a three-story building that would include 4,850 square feet of administrative space, 14,600 square feet of classroom, science and computer laboratory space, 6,000 square feet of industrial lab, informational technology and criminal justice technology space and other classroom spaces, 87,00 square feet of technology, STEM, multipurpose/assembly spaces and a complete gymnasium, among many other support rooms and spaces.
That’s a big step up from the 11 instructional classrooms WAAT currently has on two hallways in a repurposed portion of Beddingfield High School.