Bladen County Board of Education schedules community forums to discuss consolidation

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — Residents of Bladen County will have their opportunity to voice their concerns about consolidation.

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Robert Taylor asked the board to consider five dates for community forums to be held in four communities impacted by recent consolidation proposals. Taylor recommended to the board holding forums in Tar Heel, Clarkton, East Arcadia and Elizabethtown.

Though, he said, students from Elizabethtown wouldn’t be relocated, the schools would be impacted by the number of students moving in.

The board recently had a joint meeting with the county’s Board of Commissioners to give them a capsule look at the most recent proposal — one that would close Booker T. Washington in Clarkton and Plain View in Tar Heel, as well as replace Tar Heel Middle — the county’s oldest school — with a new K-8 school in Tar Heel. In addition, the proposal included the possibilities of adding a field house at East Bladen and West Bladen, multi-purpose buildings at three schools, upgrading one cafeteria and other necessities around the district. The entire project, if approved, could cost about $56 million.

Board member Berry Lewis suggested holding the forums in April and, rather than voting on consolidation at the regular meeting the following week, holding the forums one month and making a decision about consolidation the following month in order to have time to receive feedback from constituents.

Board members were poised to vote on holding the forums the first week of April, when regular guest Phyllis Miller piped up and questioned the move.

“Being that we’re in baseball season … we’re not going to get all the people in the community out,” Miller pointed out. “Why schedule them when you know people are going to be at ball games?”

“If you look at the whole year, there’s always something going on,” returned Lewis.

After ascertaining that the last middle school baseball game was at the end of April, Gary Rhoda pointed out that scheduling the forums for May and voting on consolidation in June would also give the board time to see how things were going with the charter school scheduled to open in August.

“Having these meetings is statutory, but the biggest concern for me is having an opportunity for the public to ask questions,” Taylor said. “We want to make sure they get a feel for what we’re trying to do.”

Members agreed to hold forums at the four locations Monday, May 1; Tuesday, May 2; Thursday, May 4; and Tuesday, May 9. Locations for the dates were not set.

In other action, the board:

— Approved a plan for second-chance testing, which would give EOG- and EOC-takers another opportunity to master the test and move forward.

— Heard from Child Nutrition Supervisor Amy Stanley about an opportunity that would provide supper — rather than just a snack — for students staying late for school activities like sports. If approved, the program would target at-risk students in one to four schools the first year, then expand to more schools if successful. The board approved moving forward with the application.

— Learned from Taylor that FEMA reimbursed the system $22,300 for overtime and supplies at the shelters and for the insurance deductible.

— Heard that 19 high-school students will be graduating with an associate’s degree this year.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Education will be Monday, April 10.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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