Option 4: What’s next?

Published 9:33 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

JACKSON – Northampton County officials will meet sometime in May for a budget work session to determine 2016-17 funding for the county’s system of public schools.

In an April 19 letter from County Manager Kimberly Turner to Schools Superintendent Monica Smith-Woofter, Turner informed the Northampton County Board of Education that the $1.4 million in funding for the School Board’s consolidation plan had been rejected by the Board of County Commissioners at its April 18 meeting.

Turner wrote, “During the work session, the Board of Commissioners discussion surrounded the following items:

Citizens expressed opposition for the reconfiguration;

At this time, the only revenue source for additional funding will result in a tax increase;

The reconfiguration requested is only a temporary fix as the Board of Education is still expecting to construct a centrally located school;

The tour of the schools did not show any major deficiencies within those school buildings other than the apparent maintenance neglect and issues that were mitigated;

The reconfiguration is going to affect the majority of the student population as well as Roanoke-Chowan Community College’s service area; and

Northampton County School System is not performing well academically.”

This modified option 4 of “The Way Forward Plan” would keep Willis Hare Elementary and Conway Middle schools as currently configured. The Northampton-East campus would be closed, with high school students being bused to the current Gaston Middle School.

The original option 4 plan rejected soundly by over 100 people at an April 7 public hearing hosted by the Board of Education called for spending $800,000 to move all high school students to the former Northampton-West and closing the current high school campus located near Creeksville.

That plan also called for Gaston Elementary to house students in grades 1-8 from the west side of the county; Squire Elementary to become the home of pre-K and Kindergarten students, high school students preparing for the Early College program at Halifax Community College, and an alternative learning center; and allowing Central Elementary School in Jackson to continue for grades pre-K through 5.

The modified plan would require the purchase of modular units to be used as classrooms where the number of students exceeds building space. That part of the plan is what the Commissioners pointed to during an April 18 meeting as the major source of driving up the original $800,000 funding request for Option 4 to its current level of $1.4 million.

Turner said at the April 18 meeting that the county has set aside an additional $550,000, in accordance with last year’s mediated agreement, for capital outlay during the 2015-16 school year.