School relocation studied

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Education has asked Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy to develop a plan that would modify and relocate the district’s Alternative Learning Program.

At a recent school board meeting, Vice Board Chair Erica Smith-Ingram initially moved to close Northampton Alternative School and modify the program.

Ingram, who requested the item be up for discussion, noted by statutory requirements the district still needed to provide Alternative Learning Program.

“What I’m saying is that it doesn’t need to be a separate facility,” she said. “We may have another use for that building because there are some discussions and some plans.”

“But it is a school right now, with its own school number,” said Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy.

“The motivation (behind it) is because when you have an Alternative Learning Program at a school, at its home school, the students usually have more access to the specialty teachers that they need to have access to, as well as some of the extracurricular activities that we provide to them and dealing holistically with our children, and looking at how we’re trying to promote achievement and academics,” Ingram said.

She added the students did not need to be isolated and they could benefit from academic outcomes.

“Our school has been high growth before,” said Bracy. “How many years in a row, five?”

“That’s not what we’re talking about,” Ingram said.

“I thought we wanted a school just in a different location, down an isolated hallway,” Bracy said recalling a discussion during a Board work session.

“We were tasked with doing the best use of our facilities,” Ingram noted. “We’re keeping a whole building open for 20 kids. …Nothing is going to work in terms of our future planning if we’re not utilizing the spaces that we have to the maximized and the optimize usage of those buildings.”

“What’s being projected now is closing the school and going to a program and losing that school number,” Bracy said.

“But you’re looking at some other models that we’re talking about so all of that needs to be made together without being premature,” Ingram said.

Board Chair Kelvin Edwards asked for clarity the matter.

“If (Northampton County Alternative School) was on another campus (with another school) it would still keep its number, correct?” Edwards inquired.

“That’s what I would desire,” Bracy said.

Edwards noted if the school were on another school’s campus it would still retain its number as well as its staff.

“We’re talking about relocating the school, not using the ‘closed’ word,” Edwards said.

Board member Donald Johnson said he thought Alternative Schools took those students with behavioral problems away from the campus they’re currently attending.

Ingram said looking at the demographics of the school this year, many of the students have “aged out” of their grade level.

“A lot of times when you have aged out children they haven’t been identified or received the services they needed,” she said.

Ingram added the relocation would fit some of the things the district is trying to address.

Ingram amended her motion to authorize the administration to look into a plan to relocate the Alternative School and have it come back before the board in May. The measure was seconded by Marjorie Edwards and passed without objection.