WHITEVILLE — Two new school buses are making a daily circuit between Bladen, Robeson and Columbus counties, transporting students to Columbus Charter School in Whiteville.
Charter schools in North Carolina are not required to provide buses and meals to their students; Columbus Charter now provides both.
“Our lunch program was a huge undertaking last year, but we saw the need for our students to be insured a hot, nutritious meal,” said Steve Smith, headmaster of the school, in a news release. “We saw the same need in our community for transportation options. Last year, members of the Lumberton community contacted our management company, The Roger Bacon Academy, over concerns with the lack of quality education in their elementary district schools. They were looking for ways to partner with us to provide their children with a great education. We explored a number of options, and ultimately settled on providing a bus to and from Columbus Charter School.”
Research into other surrounding communities showed that one of the key barriers to parents exercising school choice was transportation, so Columbus Charter expanded their options. Two buses provide pickup and drop-off points in Lumberton and Fairmont in Robeson County and in Bladenboro, Elizabethtown and Clarkton in Bladen County.
“It’s been a huge challenge,” Smith said in the release. “Charter schools aren’t eligible for the funds that district schools receive for operating buses, and we also have to factor in how long students are going to be sitting on that bus and how early do their parents have to have them ready and at the bus drop-off point in the morning. But it’s worth it when we hear the thanks from parents who love that their kids are excited about coming to school.”
Columbus Charter School is one of four public charter schools managed by The Roger Bacon Academy, Inc. The other schools include Douglass Academy in Wilmington, Charter Day School in Leland and South Brunswick Charter School in Southport.