Rich Square-Creecy to close

Published 5:16 pm Saturday, May 2, 2009

JACKSON — Rich Square W.S. Creecy Elementary School, along with two other public schools in Northampton County, will be closing its doors at the end of the current school year.

After weeks of deliberation, the Northampton County Board of Education’s final decision to close three schools and consolidate/reorganize others came on Thursday evening.

“I move we adopt the combination option for the 2009-10 school year in the phase one of the school reconstruction plan,” said Board Vice Chair Bill Little, placing the motion on the floor. “This will include the closure of three schools; Garysburg Elementary, Rich Square Creecy and the Alternative School.”

Little’s motion came after board members discussed two favored options, independent architectural firm MBAJ’s option number three and an additional “combination” option presented to the board at the beginning of the meeting.

The “combination” option, an amalgamation of MBAJ’s two recommended options (five and three), was formulated on Wednesday by Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy, Assistant Superintendent Phil Matthews and Chief Academic Advisor Dr. Nicholas J. King.

Bracy told the board on Wednesday he along with Matthews and King toured all of the schools and studied the facts once again with the goal of utilizing the school system’s newer buildings.

On the eastern end of the county, both Willis Hare and Central Elementary Schools will stay just that, serving grades Pre-K through 4th. Willis Hare will be functioning at a 96 percent capacity, while Central will have a 99 percent capacity.

Bracy said school district lines will need to be redrawn to allow 90 of the 272 students from Rich Square Creecy to attend Willis Hare.

Conway Middle School will see an additional grade, serving grades 5-8 and functioning at an 87 percent capacity. Northampton County High School-East will stay grades 9-12 with a 52 percent capacity.

Meanwhile on the western end of the county, Squire Elementary will become a primary school of sorts with Pre-K-1st grades and function at 53 percent capacity.

The current Gaston Middle School will house grades 2-6 with a 111 percent capacity.

Grades 7th and 8th from Gaston will be moved to Northampton County High School-West, which will operate at 96 percent capacity.

With the “combination” option, the school system would not need to purchase mobile classroom units, which would cost $30,000 each, to accommodate students.

Board member Marjorie Edwards voiced a concern about the 7th and 8th graders from Gaston being consolidated into Northampton County High School-West.

Bracy said the 7th and 8th graders would be separated from the high school students in the different section of the school, the younger students would have their own bathroom in that section.

“I’d just like to have that on paper,” Edwards responded. “We’re saying it now and its flying in the air.”

Edwards added she would feel more comfortable if the 7th and 8th graders could be transported on separate buses. Dr. Bracy said that could be done.

Board members also discussed the capacity of the current Gaston Middle School, which will be at 111 percent next year.

Dr. Bracy said all of the students (grades 2-6) can be accommodated and even though 111 percent looked like the school would be over capacity, no mobile classrooms would be necessary.

“It’s not an exact science with DPI capacity,” he said. “With this plan we have flexibility…I thought it would behoove us to use our newer facilities.”

Bracy said an entire hall at Squire Elementary will be empty and could be utilized if one of the grades increased in enrollment.

Board member Erica Smith-Ingram said she favored the “combination” option along with the MBAJ’s option number three.

Ingram said she like the third option because it gave a sense of unity, curriculum wise, on both east and west sides of the school system.

Little voiced his support for the “combination” option.

“We can mitigate upfront spending…I think this plan does that,” he said. “The grades at Squire give us flexibility.”

Ingram noted that there was no upfront cost with option three either and that in the past the school district had some “hair pulling” with different school turnaround programs and curriculum.

Board member Charles Tyner said the difference in the two optiond is accountability.

“I think I like it with PreK-4, that way there is two testing areas,” he said.

Tyner also liked the fact that the plan kept the least amount of students at Northampton County High School-East.

“That building is just in bad shape it needs to be torn down,” he said.

Edwards said she did not agree with closing Rich Square Creecy, but with what the children needed.

Board member Donald Johnson asked citizens to look at the reorganization as a phased plan.

“The long range plan is a new high school (for both east and west students),” he said.

Johnson said if stimulus money for school construction were to come through, the situation could be temporary.

“I don’t like this idea of east and west, it should be Northampton County,” said Edwards.

Board Chair Grace Edwards agreed.

“We need to get rid of this stigma of east and west,” she said. “We need to start changing our dialogue…we are Northampton County.”

Little made a motion to accept the “combined” option; Marjorie Edwards offered a second.

Before votes were taken, Ingram noted for the record she was against the “combined” option.

The motion passed on a 6-1 vote, with the only opposition coming from Ingram.