Bertie officials discuss options

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

WINDSOR – Are there any other options available?

That was the question on most minds here yesterday (Monday) afternoon where the public took part in a joint meeting between the Bertie County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education.

The meeting was held as the Bertie Board of Education moves forward in its effort to present a new desegregation plan to the U.S. Department of Justice in order to satisfy a court order against the school system.

Several opinions were voiced, but the underlying message sent by the public was why hasn’t there been a concerned effort by the Bertie School Board to keep all of its elementary schools open.

After rethinking a decision made earlier this month, the Bertie School Board approved a new idea at a special called meeting last Thursday. There, the board agreed to a motion that included two options – (1) To close John P. Law and Askewville elementary schools at the end of the 2006- 07 school year; or in the alternative, (2) if funding becomes available by the end of the 2006-07 school year, to close Aulander, John P. Law and Askewville elementary schools at the close of the 2008-09 school year and construct a new elementary school with a capacity of 450 students and to open that school at the start of the 2009-2010 school year.

Citing a need for a new high school, the Bertie Commissioners said they were concerned over the wording of that motion as it appeared it committed them to funds they had yet to include in their long-range plans.

&uot;Option two is disconcerting to the Commissioners,&uot; Lloyd Smith, attorney for the Board of Commissioners, said. &uot;The county doesn’t want its hands tied (by the wording of the option). We were hoping to build a new high school first.&uot;

County Manger Zee Lamb, when discussing the possibility of another statewide school bond referendum coming in 2008, asked wouldn’t the county, acting upon the wording in option two, be obligated to spend at least $13 million (the projected cost of the new elementary facility) on what the School Board had presented in its option to the Department of Justice?

During the public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, the theme was basically why the School Board has not considered an option to keep all elementary schools open.

They wanted to know why a plan has not been devised to upgrade the facilities at J.P. Law Elementary in Merry Hill and to tweak the attendance lines of Askewville Elementary in order to allow an increase of black students attending that school, a move the public thinks will satisfy the federal court’s ruling of racial imbalance at Askewville.

More on this story will appear in Thursday’s edition.