Last updated: April 09. 2014 7:48AM - 443 Views
Valerie Newton Special to the Journal



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ELIZABETHTOWN – Bladen County School's future depends on the sustained progress of its public school system. That's why, as part of the May 6 Sales and Use Tax Referendum, Superintendent Robert Taylor forged a “Promises Made, Promises Kept” pledge with the community.
The pledge demonstrates clearly that the school system is committed to ensuring that revenue generated from the one-quarter-percent sales tax, if approved by the voters, are used with fidelity.
Taylor will provide a quarterly report to the Board of Education and the public on expenditures made with sales tax revenue. The report will be shared widely at Bladen County Schools Board of Education meetings, community presentations, Social Media, and on the Bladen County Schools Website.
The school system is committed to becoming a more effective, efficient, transparent educational enterprise. It commits to leaders, citizens, parents and children that improving school environments, increasing student achievement, and strengthening Bladen County School operations and efficiency are everyone's responsibility.
“The quality of our educational system is directly responsible for our economic success,” Taylor said.
In the school system's current fiscal management, the district: (1) engages in thorough advance planning, with staff and community involvement, in order to develop budgets and to guide expenditures so as to achieve the greatest educational returns and the greatest contributions to the educational programs in relation to dollars expended; (2) establishes levels of funding that will provide high quality education for all students; (3) uses the best available techniques for budget development and management; (4) provides timely and appropriate information to all staff with fiscal management responsibilities; and, (5) establishes maximum efficiency procedures for accounting, reporting, business, purchasing and delivery, payroll, payment of vendors and contractors, and all other areas of fiscal management.
In this article we're featuring two more schools, Plain View Primary and Bladenboro Middle, and some of the facility needs that exist at these schools. While we will discuss each school's condition individually, consistencies across the Bladen County show that out-dated infrastructure, non-efficient, failing external structures, and lack of high-performance operations are found in all the schools.
— Plain View Primary is a pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade school with approximately 191 students currently enrolled. The school has the second smallest student population in the county.
In 2001, the school population was at its highest with approximately 267 students and 17 full-time teachers. The school experienced population growth in the late 90's and early 2000's. Enrollment has fluctuated each year, gaining one year and losing the next year. Currently, the school employs 12 full-time teachers.
In 1951 the first building of the school was built, which is currently the main front building of the school, with a total of 16,600 square feet to accommodate approximately 200 students. This building included nine classrooms and the cafetorium, designed for use both as a cafeteria and an auditorium. The original building housed a reading room, which is comparable to a media center but is the size of a classroom.
The reading room was later converted to a classroom in 1975 with the addition of a stand-alone media center with a total of 1,594 square feet. Today the media center still operates in its original building, with its original carpeting, original flooring, and original bookcases.
Two years later in 1977, the school added two kindergarten classrooms to the media center with a total of 2,627 square feet to accommodate approximately 50 students. This wing has one girl's bathroom and one boy's bathroom being used daily by 50 or more kindergartners.
Five mobile units were placed at the school in 2001 with a total of 4,400 square feet to accommodate approximately 100 students. This was during a time when the school experienced population growth. These mobile units are currently being used as resource classrooms for art, ESL, guidance and music.
As at the other schools in Bladen County with mobile units, those at Plain View do not have indoor plumbing. Anytime a student needs to use the restroom or wash their hands they must leave the mobile unit, go out to the main building doors and use the facilities inside the main building. One of the boy's bathrooms is actually located outside of the mobile unit, attached as a separate building. Additionally, the mobile units are not wired into the main building PA system. Any announcements that are made, including a fire drill alarm, cannot be heard in the mobile units.
Like other schools in the county, Plain View does not have a multi-purpose building and lacks the electrical infrastructure to plug-in today's technology.
During inclement weather, students are stuck inside their classroom during PE time. On the days when the weather is good and students are able to go outside for PE, their activities are limited with only one swing set, one merry-go-round, and one see-saw. Recently, the school PTO purchased a new merry-go-round for the playground with hopes of being able to add a new piece of equipment each year. However, a single piece of equipment can cost on average $3,000 and a playground module set can cost upwards of $50,000. That's a lot of fundraising effort to generate enough money to purchase equipment.
Walk into any classroom and you'll find extension cords and powerstrips galore. Mobile carts with electrical plug-ins are utilized to support technology usage. When the school was built in 1951 there wasn't a need for more than two electrical outlets per classroom. Today, students and teachers are using computers, laptops, iPads, overhead projectors, SmartBoards, and other types of technology that require electricity. Teachers must be creative in the use of electricity and technology so as not to create a circuit overload.
During the winter months, the school had an underground steam line rupture in the main building near the cafeteria. A similar situation happened at Dublin Primary a year or so ago.
The original boiler unit, which is a dual-fueled gas and oil-fired, fire tube steam boiler is still being used to heat the main building. At the location of the line rupture, the heat from the water in the steam line heats the floor and the area around the floor to temperatures of 170 degrees. Repairing a steam line rupture requires more than simply gluing or taping the line back together. The location of the rupture must be isolated and the line dug up and replaced with new piping. Additionally, the school will need to find another source of heat for that section of the building in the winter months as the ruptured line has been capped and no longer operable.
The bathrooms in the school are the original ones when the school was built in 1951. While the cleanliness of them is first and foremost, one can't avoid the fact that the metal ceiling tile strips and the framework around the stalls along with metal fixtures are corroded with rust.
— Bladenboro Middle is a fifth- through eighth-grade school with approximately 375 students currently enrolled. The usable space in the school is a little over 75,000 total square feet. Enrollment has remained steady between 411 and 375 students since the original school was converted to a middle school in 2002. Currently, the school employs 22 full-time teachers.
The earliest history of education in Bladenboro has been traced back to 1729, when Scottish immigrants used spelling books, a Latin and Greek book and the King James Version of the Bible to teach. The most direct precursor to Bladenboro School was Bladenboro Academy that was established by four prominent men in the town of Bladenboro. This academy was located near the First Baptist Church until 1920.
In 1918, the school built a new brick building, the present Bladenboro Historical Building, for a cost of $35,000.
In 1937, other buildings were added to the Bladenboro School campus, including a grammar school building, a primary building, a high school building, a Home Economics Cottage, an agriculture building, a cafeteria, a cannery, and a recreational building with an auditorium that could seat 2,000 people. The Home Economics Cottage and the agriculture building sit unused currently in a deteriorating state and need to be demolished.
The newest addition was made to the present campus in 1991 and the original 1918 building was deeded to the Historical Society. The original cafeteria and a classroom building were torn down to make room for new classroom additions.
The next building project for Bladen County was the construction of two new high school facilities. West Bladen High School was built approximately 5 miles outside of Bladenboro and students from Clarkton, Elizabethtown, Tar Heel and Bladenboro now attend this school. Students, faculty and staff members moved from grades sixth through eighth at Spaulding Monroe Middle School and from grade five at Bladenboro Primary School to form Bladenboro Middle School in August of 2002.
Due to the original footprint of the school, the current bus parking lot is not located near a covered area of the school. The traffic pattern of the lot does not run along the perimeter of the building, but instead is located away from the building. Buses aren't able to pull-up to a sidewalk or within close proximity of a building. Students walk from the main building, approximately 60 yards, without overhead shelter, to reach their bus. During inclement weather, they can be exposed to rain, sleet, or snow while waiting to board the bus. A canopy extending from the main building to the middle of the bus parking lot would provide coverage for students while waiting in line.
Like all school buildings in the County, Bladenboro Middle experiences inconsistencies with climate control particularly in the older sections of the school. With some rooms being too cold and other rooms being too hot, consistent room temperatures are difficult to manage. Inefficient HVAC equipment cost more to operate and maintain, and lead to low-performance energy consumption.
— The fifth article in this series will feature Elizabethtown Primary, a pre-kindergarten through fourth-grade school, and Clarkton School of Discovery, a sixth- through eighth-grade school.
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