ELIZABETHTOWN — The Bladen County Board of Education held a retreat Thursday afternoon to discuss school consolidation. Both Superintendent Robert Taylor and Board Chairwoman Ophelia Munn-Goins stressed that nothing is finalized and no consolidations will take place before the 2016-17 academic year.
Some of the possible scenarios that were discussed included:
— Consolidating Plain View Primary and Dublin Primary School onto the Dublin Primary Campus and adding a modular unit.
— Consolidating Booker T. Washington Primary School, with a couple of different scenarios discussed. One is to move all of the Booker T. Washington students to Bladenboro Primary School. A second scenario is to disperse the students between Bladenboro Primary, Elizabethtown Primary and East Arcadia School.
— There was some discussion about moving some students to Bladen Lakes Primary School which would also require some upgrades to modular units.
— Moving the sixth, seventh and eighth grades from East Arcadia School to Elizabethtown Middle School. Leaving East Arcadia School a K-5 school.
— Consolidating Clarkton School of Discovery, sending the Project Challenge students to Elizabethtown Middle School and dispersing the remaining students between Elizabethtown Middle School, Bladenboro Middle School and Tar Heel Middle School.
— Another scenario, but very long-range plan, is the possibility of constructing two new middle schools and consolidating the remaining middle schools into two schools. According to discussion, this scenario would probably not take place for at least ten years or more.
Taylor told the board that there are statutory regulations that must be met before they can close a school and he went over some of the criteria for closing a school with the board. Some of those item include the enrollment in the various schools, costs of operation of the facilities and organization of the school system. Also, there is the consideration of what to do with the closed buildings.
“One thing to always keep in mind, there will always be some costs with the buildings. We still have to run the air conditioning, the heat, etc.,” said Taylor.
He said the board has been discussing some issues that must addressed, such as student enrollment.
“Student enrollment continues to decline. Part of the reason is due to the charter schools. Charter school enrollment is steady,” said Taylor.
He told the board they also need to consider personnel in the scenarios as well. No specifics were given on what would happen to staff at the consolidated schools.
After some further discussion, Munn-Goins asked the board members who serve on the facilities committee for their input.
“I think the consensus is to consolidate Plain View and Booker T. Washington and disperse those students where they need to go,” said Alan West.
Taylor told the board that, if a consideration if to move part of the students to at Booker T. Washington to Bladenboro Primary and Elizabethtown Primary and a group that’s at Elizabethtown Primary being sent to Bladen Lakes Primary, that would require constructing modular units at both Dublin Primary and Bladen Lakes Primary.
“One possibility is if we send all the students to Bladenboro Primary we might not have to do any building. Presently, as the school stands, Bladenboro Primary could take them all and absorbed into existing classes,” said Taylor.
The cost to construct a modular unit would be $378,000 and Taylor told the board that the school district has the funds available in capital outlay. There was also some discussion of the potential of the availability of lottery funds for use as well.
Amy Stanley also told the board that they would need to consider expanding the cafeteria at Dublin and Bladenboro, among other things.
Both West and Carroll expressed concerns about closing both Booker T. Washington Primary School and Clarkton School of Discovery at the same time.
“My whole thing is you strip away the schools, you give them time, three or four years, to get prepared for it. You don’t just strip away two schools. I think we need to do it at a slow pace,” said West.
Taylor said that once the board commits to a plan, they have to give the community the opportunity to respond to the plan.
Taylor said the county commissioners get involved in the plans if the need arises for new construction. He told the board that the modular unit is something the board can do and not drain the capital outlay account.
After further discussion it was decided to appoint an ad hoc committee to meet with Taylor and finalize a plan of consolidation for the 2016-17 academic year to be presented to the board at the September meeting. The members of the ad hoc committee are West, Carrol, Munn-Goins and Gary Rhoda.
—Erin Smith can be reached at 910-862-4163.