‘We’ve got to give it time’

Published 8:58 am Thursday, March 10, 2011

JACKSON — The notion of consolidating Northampton County’s two high schools is at a stand still for now.

On Monday evening, the Northampton County Board of Education voted not to move forward with consolidation during the 2011-12 school year, but to continue the process as it relates to the 2012-13 school year.

The board held two public forums last month at Northampton County High School-East and Northampton County High School- West/STEM concerning the possibility of consolidating the two schools to combat declining enrollment as well as state budget cuts.

“It is the consensus of the board at this time not to continue the process of making a decision now as to when this will be,” said Board of Education Chair Bill Little. “The board will continue to look at this over the next couple of months and hopefully will be able to come to a decision on that.”

Little’s colleagues voiced their agreement with holding off on a decision to consolidate the schools, noting there were a lot of considerations to take into account on the matter.

“It comes to a matter of listening to our citizens and that’s what the purpose of the forums are so we can make a conscientious decision,” said board member Kelvin Edwards.

Edwards said his restraint on the matter comes from not having a large enough timeframe in three to four months to consolidate the high schools.

“Now is not the time because there are not enough logistical things that have been put in place,” he said. “If there is a consolidated high school, what is the name of the high school? What are the colors of the high school? What is the mascot? …One high school now is just not the answer.”

Lafayette Majette agreed, noting there was a lot to take into account.

“We’ve got to give it time,” he said.

Erica Smith-Ingram asked her fellow board members to think about innovative strategies when looking at consolidating the two schools.

“Let’s keep in mind that the charter school (Gaston Prep) is going down grades and starting with Kindergarten, so we may not need as many elementary schools,” she said.

Ingram continued by saying one thing she learned at the public forums is that citizens had suggestions and recommendations the board needed to consider.

“One thing we should do is look at all options,” she said.

Board members also discussed what part the Northampton County Board of Commissioners would play in the county having one high school.

“The public needs to get in contact with the county commissioners and let them know how you feel,” said board member Rhonda Taylor. “You let us know how you feel, let them know how you feel. That’s a very important piece.”

“We’ve got to have money, they (commissioners) sit there and say we can’t get it,” said Majette. “Yes, you can.”

Ingram motioned to not move forward with the merger for the 2011-12 school year and continue to work through the process for the 2012-13 school year. Donald Johnson seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.