River Gate Elementary
River Gate Elementary. Kara Lopp/MMHW photos

Posted by CW Editor on July 22, 2011
Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly
by Kara Lopp

If you want to see what Mint Hill’s new Bain Elementary School will look like, take a trip down U.S. 77 south to River Gate Elementary.

The two-year-old Charlotte school off Smith Road near Carowinds amusement park will be the inspiration for the new Bain. In fact, the schools will nearly be clones of each other right down to the rock climbing wall in the gym and flat-screen TVs above the kitchen doors, officials say. Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly toured River Gate this week to get a sneak peek at the plans for Bain.

A replacement for Bain Elementary was among the projects approved by Mecklenburg County commissioners July 12 as part of a $156.4 million capital projects program, which will mean borrowing about $100 million in the form of bonds. Renovations at Independence High School, however, aren’t included in the list of projects that would be covered by bond sales, mostly from voter-approved measures in 2004 and 2007. This would be the first time the county has sold bonds since 2009.

Bain Elementary School
By August 2013, students at Mint Hill’s Bain Elementary School will begin classes in a newly-constructed school set to closely mimic Charlotte’s River Gate Elementary. Kara Lopp/MMHW photos

The project is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2012 and the new Bain Elementary should welcome its first students in August 2013.

Building a new Bain Elementary differs from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ initial plans to overhaul the kitchen, building systems and add more classrooms, which was approved by Mint Hill commissioners in February 2009. The switch was the result of economics, said Guy Chamberlain, associate superintendent for Auxiliary Services with the district. Construction of the new school is expected to cost about $11.5 million with a total project cost of $15.3 million, which includes design work and furniture, Chamberlain said.

The Bain “renovation was pushing $10 million. We were going to spend almost as much money and walk away with a school that was basically however old that school is and for just a little more money we could have a new, more energy-efficient school and the operating costs would be less,” he said. “The new school will pay for itself just by having a more efficient building.”

The same decision was made with renovations planned for Pineville Elementary and south Charlotte’s McClintock Middle, which had structural problems, Chamberlain said.

The new building will be adjacent to the existing school, a portion of which was built in the 1980s. The district, which owns about 25 acres around the school, hopes to be able to keep the current building as a solution for school overcrowding, Chamberlain said, noting it would be less expensive than renting mobile classrooms. However, the district won’t know for sure if the building will stay until the N.C. Department of Transportation completes its review of the project. Road improvements around the property, such as adding turn lanes, could force the district to demolish the current building, he said.

The original Bain building, nearly 100 years old, will remain untouched during the project, Chamberlain said.

A new Bain Elementary

Much like River Gate Elementary, the new Bain will be a two-story, 39-classroom building measuring about 82,000 square feet with separate art, music and computer labs, a media center, and cafeteria/gymnasium with a handicap-accessible stage. However, Bain will be built in a “T” shape with classrooms on the second floor, said Mike Higgins, with the district’s Capital Program Services. He was the project manager for River Gate and said the design is one of three the district now uses when building a new elementary school.

Just like River Gate, Bain will have colored tile patterns on hallway floors, a rock climbing wall at the back of the stage to be used during gym classes and flat-screen TV monitors outside the kitchen where staff will display lunch menus and facts about healthy food. Those are all standard features now in a CMS elementary, Higgins said.

Some classrooms will be equipped with a small tutoring room and a one-way window where parents and administrators can observe students without being seen. The media center will include designated areas for reading, story time and technology, with a grouping of computers and large teaching area. The students also will have an area where they broadcast newscasts.

The about 9,500 square-foot cafeteria/gymnasium will hold about 800 students.

Outside, students and parents will find separate drop-off areas for cars and buses and two playgrounds – one for kindergarteners through second graders and one for third through fifth graders.