LAURINBURG – Scotland County School Board members have given the administration the green light to move forward with the planning of the three phases of the school consolidation plan as originally presented.
The decision allows the staff to continue the planning the next phases of consolidation and closure, compile needed documentation, and set up required public meetings.
“It helps to know if we are going to move forward with the projects and if we are moving forward, how we are going to do it. Are we going to do both of the extensions at one time and then postpone the building of the new school” said Superintendent Ron Hargrave. “Or are we going to do one extension one year, one extension the next year and then the new school two years from now.”
The first phase of the plan was done over the summer when Washington Park and Pate Gardner closed. Students from those schools were sent to Sycamore Lane, a former middle school. Sycamore Lane students were transferred to the two existing middle schools in the county.
In the second phase with a tentative date of August 2017, students at Covington Street Elementary School would go to Sycamore Lane Elementary. Early College students would go into Covington Street.
Sycamore Lane will be renovated to accommodate the extra students and staff.
School Board member Darrel “BJ” Gibson said school officials need to update the public on the various phases.
“I think we owe it to these citizens in these communities and the parents of these students to do the same and I am not sure if we have talked about doing that,” Gibson said.
School board member Jamie Sutherland asked Hargrave why the process is spread out over three years.
“Why wouldn’t you do both, two phases at one time then a new school?’ he said “What was the thought process?”
Hargrave said during previous discussions the board wanted to move slower.
Funding was a also major concern of the board members. How the project will be funded is not clear, but the Scotland County Board of Commissioners will have to be involved with any financial decision.
“Financially can we do all at one time?” board Chairman Dr. Jeff Byrd said, “I think that’s one thing not knowing the numbers, financially can we do it all at one time? I know building a new school has been based on consolidating the other schools.”
Sutherland also questioned with the process in three phases, will the money be available at one time, or three different times.
“If we get it all at one time, do we have to start paying on it before we have a new school?” Sutherland said. “How does that mechanically work?”
Hargrave said the new school cannot be built be without the consolidation because that is where the money will come from.
“Either way whether you do one extension this year, one extension next year, the building of a new school is two years away. That one has to stay where it is,” said Hargrave.
School board member Raymond Hyatt asked about staff. He wanted to know if going in stages would help absorb staff going through attrition.
“I understand classroom teachers, but I’m thinking like office personnel, specialist teachers, are you going to have two librarians, two guidance counselors? My thought was by slowing it down you’re able to absorb your staff and there’s not as greatest risk or the fear of job loss,” he said.
“If we did one expansion this year and one next year, then yes we would be able to absorb the staff,” said Hargrave. “I think either way you’re still dealing with the same number of staff that you’re going to have to put in the buildings.”
Maria D. Grandy can be reached at 910-506-3171