Option 4 approved

Published 10:48 am Monday, April 18, 2016

JACKSON – If a plan approved here Wednesday evening by the Northampton County Board of Education becomes reality, public high school students across the county will have a new mailing address as early as this August.

However, the same cannot be said for first through fifth graders currently attending Willis Hare Elementary School in Pendleton.

At Wednesday’s meeting, BOE members – six in person and one by telephone – narrowly approved Option 4 of their “Way Forward Plan.” The final vote was 4-3, with Lucy Edwards, Clinton Williams, Keedra Whitaker, and Kelvin Edwards (by telephone) in agreement to approve the measure. Phil Matthews, Rhonda Taylor (chairwoman), and Marjorie Edwards opposed the plan.

Before the board members voted, Matthews reminded his colleagues that the audience attending an April 7 public hearing at the Cultural & Wellness Center was unanimously against Option 4. Parents at that meeting stressed that Option 4 was unpopular, not due to the costs associated with consolidation/grade reconfiguration plan, but where their children would start going to school in August 2016 because of the perceived threat of violence and gang activity.

Many parents from the east end of the county expressed worry about gang-related violence with the current Gaston Elementary and Gaston Middle schools because they are situated “next to the (housing) projects.”

“This is in complete opposition from the public (comments) at the public hearing,” Matthews said of Option 4.

Lucy Edwards replied, “As members of the Board of Education, we must make the decisions, and we must listen to feedback from the total community.”

The public attending Wednesday’s meeting, held at the school system’s Central Services office, was not invited to make comments on the matter.

There was however a slight modification to Option 4 made prior to Wednesday’s vote. This modified plan would keep Willis Hare Elementary (grades Pre-K to 5) and Conway Middle School (grades 6-8) as currently configured.

The original plan called for Willis Hare to serve Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students from the eastern part of the county while Conway Middle would become the home for grades 1-8 (serving those from eastern Northampton).

The remainder of Option 4 remains unchanged: closing the current high school campus at Creeksville and using the current Gaston Middle School campus (the former home of Northampton County High School-West) as the high school for all of the county’s 9th through 12th graders.

Gaston Elementary would house students in grades 1-8 from the west side of the county

Squire Elementary would be the home for pre-K and Kindergarten students, high school students preparing for the Early College program at Halifax Community College, and an alternative learning center.

Central Elementary School in Jackson would continue for grades pre-K through 5th.

The cost to implement this plan is about $1.4 million, which is the amount of funding the BOE will be seeking from the County Commissioners. That figure represents more than a half-million-dollar increase from what Northampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Monica Smith-Woofter requested from the Commissioners at their April 4 meeting. There, Dr. Smith-Woofter requested $800,000 for consolidation/grade reconfiguration.

The Board of County Commissioners is meeting in open session to discuss this issue at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, April 18.

There were other options for the School Board to consider in their “Way Forward Plan”, including keeping the current high school campus open in Creeksville. A 2013 Facilities Study ordered by the Board of Education found that the majority of the high-school age students residing in Northampton County live relatively close to that campus.

The other plans formally under consideration, some that date back several years, include:


Option 1

Gaston Elementary (Prek-5) + modular units

Gaston Middle (9-12)

Close Squire

Central (PreK-5)

Northampton HS (6-8)

Conway Middle (PreK -5) + modular units

Close Willis Hare

Early College


Option 2

Gaston Elementary (PreK-5) + modular units

Gaston Middle (6-8)

Close Squire

Central (PreK-5)

Northampton HS (9-12)

Conway Middle (PreK -5) + modular units

Close Willis Hare

Early College


Option 3

Gaston Middle School (9-12)

Gaston Elementary (1-8) + modular

Squire (PreK, K + Early College)

Conway (1-8)

Willis Hare (PreK-K)

Central Elementary (PreK-8)

(HS campus closed) ALP at Seaboard or Squire


Option 5

Squire PreK + Early College

Gaston Elementary (K-5)

Gaston Middle (9-12)

Central Elementary (PreK-5)

Close HS, ALP Seaboard or other

Conway Middle (6-8)

Willis Hare (PreK-5)


Option 6

Squire (closed) or Pre K ONLY

Gaston Elementary (K-4) or (PreK-4)

Gaston Middle (5-8 and Early College and ALP)

Central Elementary (PreK-4)

High School (9-12)

Conway Middle (5-8)

Willis Hare (PreK-4)


Option 7

Squire Early College and ALP

Gaston Elementary (1-8)

Central Elementary (PreK-K)

Conway Middle (1-8)

Gaston Middle (9-12 at old NCHS-West HS)

Close Willis Hare

Close high school (Creeksville campus)

(R-C News-Herald Editor Cal Bryant contributed to this story.)