Student shuffle creates space crunch at Pisgah High

A $2.5 million expansion at Pisgah High School in Canton will relieve chronic overcrowding and a classroom shortage that forces some teachers to spend their days as “floaters.”


With no room of their own to call home, they work from a mobile cart, pushing their books and teaching supplies from class to class, depending on what room is empty that period. The choir director has spent the last 15 years without a room and teaches in what is essentially a doublewide trailer.

But finally, the wait is over. After being delayed by more pressing school projects, construction at Pisgah High School in Canton will get underway next calendar year.

“It’s been kind of a long, drawn-out process,” said Walt Leatherwood, who has served on the school board for 12 years.

The Pisgah expansion will add classrooms and offices for teachers who are currently sharing space, change the drop-off and parking areas and build a proper choir room.

The expansion is expected to cost about $2.5 million, but final estimates will not be available until after the project is bid out to construction companies. There is no deadline for the project completion yet because the school is still waiting for a design, which must then be approved by the school board, said Bill Nolte, assistant superintendent for Haywood County Schools

The county will take out a loan on behalf of the school system and use lottery money to slowly pay off the debt.

Tuscola High School in Waynesville already got a facelift of its own, with new classrooms and a brand new arts center. Now, it’s Pisgah’s turn, Nolte said.

“It would put those schools on a level playing field,” Nolte said. “Tuscola has measurably more space.”

Enrollment at both Pisgah and Tuscola hover around 1,000 students each, Nolte said. Pisgah currently has about 50 more students than Tuscola.

Pisgah used to be the smaller of the two schools, but in an attempt to even out student populations at both high schools, the county decided to divert students from the Clyde area to Pisgah instead of Tuscola.

The shift meant that Pisgah gained about 200 more students during the last four or five years — and led the way for the space crunch that Pisgah is currently feeling.

When the addition is completed, the buildings at Pisgah and Tuscola will once again be about the same size. In fact, when they were first built, the high schools were identical in design, Nolte said. The project will ensure that there is a “fair and equal distribution” of resources between the two schools, he added.

Plans for the Pisgah project also include a new pulp and paper laboratory, which exposes students to the papermaking industry and prepares them for jobs at Evergreen Packaging paper mill in Canton. Students eyeing a career at the paper mill currently take classes on pulp and paper technology at Haywood Community College.

Once the new lab is built at Pisgah, an instructor from HCC will teach paper and pulp courses at the high school, and the college has talked about donating its instructional equipment to the new Pisgah classroom, Leatherwood said.

Designs for the additions are almost complete, and the project will “get off the ground” after the New Year, Leatherwood said.

The Haywood County Board of Commissioners last week approved the allocation of $170,000 of state lottery money to hire the Waynesville-based Mountain Design, to be the architects of the new addition.

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick questioned whether that architect fee was too steep.

“That just seems like a lot of money for that building,” Kirkpatrick said.

However, Commissioner Kevin Ensley, a surveyor by trade, replied that the architect’s fee seemed about right given the size of the project.

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