School use plans discussed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2006

WINDSOR – If a plan devised by the Bertie Board of Education to close at least two elementary schools is approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, the question remains of what to do with that property.

Late last month, the Bertie School Board, as part of its effort to appease a federal court ruling to fully desegregate its school system, submitted a plan to the Department of Justice. That plan, which recently received verbal approval from federal officials, includes the closings of Askewville and J.P. Law elementary schools. Those schools may be closed as early as the end of the 2006-07 academic year.

In the event those schools are closed, it is left to the School Board’s discretion to sell or find other uses for the buildings.

During Monday’s School Board meeting, Bertie Superintendent Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart addressed that situation. She informed Board members of two ideas.

“Please keep in mind that what we are doing here today is only preliminary discussions,” Dr. Collins-Hart said. “These are only ideas.”

The Superintendent said Askewville Elementary could be used as a centralized pre-school, housing the Pre-K students. She said in order to retrofit the existing facility to meet the state’s Pre-K requirements, the school system would have to invest approximately $55,000.

Her idea for J.P. Law Elementary would be to use the facility as the school system’s professional development and technology center.

The ideas were met with opposition, at least from one School Board member.

“If these two schools are not good enough now for the elementary grade children, then how are they good enough for this,” Melinda Eure asked, making reference to a recent facilities audit that reported both schools in sub-par condition.

“We are supposed to be saving money by closing these two schools, but yet the plan I’m hearing today is to keep them open,” Eure continued.

Eure also questioned the extended travel time for Pre-K students bused in from the Lewiston and Merry Hill areas of the county. She viewed that as a physical and mental strain on such young children.

“I’d like to see us table these two ideas and work on some other plans,” Board member Ricky Freeman suggested.

“These are just ideas at this particular moment,” School Board Chairman Seaton Fairless noted. “We may come-up with some other ideas at our next meeting.”

No further discussion was generated on the issue and the School Board took no action on the Superintendent’s ideas.