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BCPS solicits public comments

WINDSOR – Public comments are welcomed.

A one-hour public input session has been scheduled for 6-7 p.m. here Monday, Dec. 5 at the Bertie County Public Schools Central Office in regards to a recommendation made recently that deals with the possible closing of at least three Bertie public schools.

During a Nov. 8 meeting in the Bertie High School gymnasium, two representatives of Heery International, P.C. publicly released their findings of a school facilities assessment. Listed among their four options was a recommendation n closing Askewville, Aulander and J.P Law elementary schools as well as shutting down Southwestern Middle School and constructing a new elementary school.

That suggestion also included extensive upgrades to the three remaining elementary schools in the system n Colerain, West Bertie and Windsor.

The overall price tag for that recommendation was estimated at $31.8 million, including $13 million for the new elementary school.

Bertie’s Board of Education took this and three other recommendations made by Heery International representatives under advisement when the Board met on Nov. 16. The Board may further discuss the issue during Monday’s meeting, which convenes one hour after the start of the public input session.

The comprehensive facilities assessment of the district’s elementary and middle schools were part of a Consent Order by Judge Terrence Boyle, United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The Consent Order is the latest finding of a 38-year-old civil rights case filed on June 16, 1967, in United States v. Bertie County Board of Education. The original complaint alleged that the Bertie County Board of Education had failed to take adequate measures to eliminate the dual, segregated school system as it was required to do under Brown v. Board of Education and subsequent court decisions.

Heery International, a Raleigh-based firm, reviewed the physical condition and educational adequacies of each of the system’s six elementary schools and two middle schools. Bertie High School was not part of the assessment.

A three-person assessment team looked at the schools where they documented items such as classroom size, roofs, doors, ceilings, flooring, plumbing, fire protection and mechanical and electrical systems. The Heery representatives said, from an overall standpoint, that Bertie’s educational facilities “leave a lot to be desired.”

Four options were presented to the School Board for consideration. All of the options took into account that both Southwestern and C.G. White middle schools were losing their students to the new Bertie Middle School, a facility expected to open for the 2007-08 academic year.

Option 1 was to spend a total of $34.85 million to renovate and keep open all six elementary schools. The school-by-school breakdown of those expenses were as follows: Askewville – $5.96 million; Aulander – $2.26 million; Colerain – $5.8 million; J.P. Law – $3.9 million; West Bertie – $5.6 million and Windsor – $7.3 million.

Option 2 was to close Askewville and J.P. Law; renovate Southwestern to accommodate 250 students and make repairs and modernize the other four elementary schools. The option came with an estimated price tag of $35.7 million.

The third option was the cheapest ($30.9 million). It involved closing Askewville, Aulander and J.P. Law; renovating the remaining three elementary schools and upgrading Southwestern to accommodate 450 students.

However, it was option 4 (as listed earlier) that the consultants favored.

In order to satisfy the Judge Boyle’s order, the Bertie Board of Education must address the facilities assessment recommendation as well as providing a proposed student assignment plan by no later than Jan. 15, 2006.

A complete history of the desegregation case can be found on the Bertie County School’s web site at: http://www.bertieschools.com.