ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education met on Monday night and tabled the setting of dates for public hearings regarding the proposed consolidation plan.
Bladen County Schools Superintendent Robert Taylor advised the board to postpone setting any dates on the public hearings until the November meeting. He stated the reason was the because of the number of people in the community who are expressing concerns about the proposal.
“We’ll revisit it at the board meeting in November,” said Taylor.
He added there will be an open discussion regarding the proposed consolidation plan and added there are statutory requirements for consolidation that have to be addressed in an open manner.
Taylor also recommended that the board include in the discussion the cost savings, staffing considerations, repurposing options for the buildings once the schools are officially closed, the transportation costs, among other things.
Board attorney Gary Grady advised the board that because they voted at the September to move forward with the process, they must take a another vote to postpone the scheduling of the hearings. The board voted to approve waiting until the November meeting to take up the matter.
In a related item, several members of the public signed up to address the board regarding the proposed consolidation. The speakers were limited to five minutes each.
The first to speak was Sabrina Murchison who told the board she had made several requests for information and some of those requests had not been fulfilled.
Murchison itemized for the board the number of teachers currently employed at each middle school.
Murchison asked the board if they were aware of how many eighth grade students leave East Arcadia School to attend East Bladen High School. She told the board that in the 2013-14 school year, 17 eighth graders left East Arcadia School to attend EBHS; in 2014-15 that number increased slightly to 19; and 2015-16 academic year that number dropped to 13.
East Arcadia School had 22 eight graders in the whole school,” said Murchison referring to the current academic year.
Murchison also told the board that she had spoken with law enforcement regarding the amount of time it would take to reach East Arcadia School in an emergency and was told the response time from Elizabethtown would be about 30 minutes.
She also told the board she had addressed the Bladen County Board of Commissioners and requested they consider placing the quarter-cent sales tax back on the ballot.
Next to speak was Vanessa McBee, who resides in the Hollow Township. She expressed concerns regarding the issue of transportation and the length of time it will take to transport students who currently attend Plain View School to Dublin Elementary.
McBee also told the board that children already board the school buses at about 6 a.m. to be transported to school and she reminded them it is dark and the traffic is heavy at that time of day along NC 20.
Sadie Perry and Phyllis Miller also addressed the board. Miller told the board that she would like to see them go back and revisit the proposed consolidation plan.
“I would recommend you go back to the drawing board and make an appropriate cost analysis,” said Miller.
Joseph Rozier had signed up to speak but was unable to attend and Joyce Graham and Jennifer McMillan spoke in his absence. Graham presented Board of Education Chairman Ophelia Munn-Goins with a petition that she purported to have 1,000 signatures.
Graham and McMillan, who both work at Plain View Primary School, pleaded for the board to reconsider the consolidation proposal.
Erin Smith can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.