ELIZABETHTOWN — Clarkton School of Discovery is set to become a fifth- through eighth-grade school next year, so the Bladen County Board of Education spent time Monday night discussing whether to allow fifth-graders to apply to the magnet school.
Historically a sixth- through eighth-grade institution, Clarkton School of Discovery will receive fifth-graders in August, a result of the February decision by the Board of Education to close Booker T. Washington, a K-5 school.
“There’s been a request from the school to give feedback as to whether we would consider taking applications for fifth-graders,” Bladen County Superintendent Robert Taylor informed the Board. “My plan would be to keep (the applications) at sixth- through eighth-grades, as it has always been. Having said that, I did want the Board to give feedback if that is something you want us to consider.”
“I would love to see it,” responded Board member Dennis Edwards, adding the student-teacher ratio was sufficient to support the idea, and residents have expressed interest.
Currently, 28 fourth-grade students from Booker T. Washington, as well as any other fourth-graders that live within the newly drawn district, will attend Clarkton School of Discovery. A decision by the Board on applications would only affect those students living outside the newly redrawn district who wanted to apply for the fifth grade at CSD.
“What’s your biggest concern?” Berry Lewis questioned Taylor.
“I don’t have a preference,” responded the superintendent. “My feeling was it was probably not good to do something in addition to the (consolidation) plan. I thought it would probably create less confusion, but if you want us to move forward, that’s what we’ll do.”
Were fifth-grade applications to be allowed, added Taylor, it would mean elementary students desiring to attend CSD could go directly to middle school, as opposed to enrolling in their district middle school for one year before transferring to CSD.
The possibility struck a chord with at least two board members.
“I would like to see fifth-graders stay at their home school,” offered Roger Carroll. “Give them a chance to get into their (home) middle school … and see if they like it … then let them see if they would like to go … I want to support middle schools in hometowns and let them have a chance.”
Tim Benton voiced his agreement with Carroll’s view.
Taylor informed the Board he would gather additional information, and the Board could readdress the issue in April.
In other business, the Board:
— Heard an update from School Security Director Gary Turlington affirming the district is doing its “utmost to make sure (staff and students) feel safe and secure in the schools of Bladen County.”
— Heard from Facilities Supervisor Lou Nelon that bidding is imminent on the agriculture lab at East Bladen.
— Learned the district dropout rate for 2016-17 was 2.92 percent, slightly higher than the state average of 2.31 percent and a 0.90 percent increase from the previous year.
— Adopted a bed bug policy.
— Approved a one-to-one device lease with Dell Financial for $123,695.42, a savings of more than $32,000 from the previous year.
— Approved moving the April meeting to April 16.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.