School grant application approved

Published 11:47 am Monday, October 9, 2017

JACKSON – The Northampton Board of Commissioners approved a grant application for new school construction funding at their regular meeting here Monday.

The application was ready for submission and was brought before the Board by County Manager Kimberly Turner to get their official vote of approval.

The Board was first made aware of this potential grant application during their July 3 meeting when Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Monica Smith-Woofter presented the information to them. The grant money will come from the state’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund to be used for construction of new public schools.

“The application is for applying for $15 million from the state, and then $5 million will be county local dollars for a total of $20 million,” said Turner, reminding the Board and others in attendance the details of both the grant and the required local match during her presentation.

If Northampton County is selected to receive the funding, the goal is to build a more centrally located high school.

“Once the application is hopefully selected and approved, this is long range,” Dr. Smith-Woofter explained to the Board. “This is something we definitely need in Northampton County. Our student population is declining, so as much as possible we need to centralize our high school as well as making sure we can maintain our K-8 presence across the county.”

Smith-Woofter continued by explaining long school bus rides are presently an issue they want to address by constructing a more centrally-located school. The longest current route has some students on the bus for as long as two hours and ten minutes.

“Because from Murfreesboro, Hertford line to Henrico, Warren County line, it is 80 miles traveling distance from east to west,” she added.

Commissioner Charles Tyner made comments in support of the grant application and the initiative to apply as soon as possible, but also cautioned that they should stay within their budget range when constructing a new school building.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for Northampton County to receive some funds from the state,” Tyner said to which the rest of the Board agreed.

Smith-Woofter explained the funding would not be available to apply for after the 2020-21 fiscal year, which is why she also encouraged going forward with the application this year without hesitation.

“I appreciate the opportunity to be in partnership with this application and I think we’ve got a really good chance,” the superintendent said.

Tyner motioned to approve the application and Commissioner Fannie Greene seconded it. The Board approved it without opposition.

Other school-related discussion during the October 2 commissioners’ meeting pertained to the issue of Willis Hare Elementary and its potential to join North Carolina’s new Innovative School District (ISD) next year. Selection to join the district would mean the school would be placed under a charter or educational management organization for the next five years.

Tyner asked Smith-Woofter what the commissioners should expect and prepare for if Willis Hare is selected.

Smith-Woofter answered that Eric Hall, ISD Superintendent, is planning to meet with the local school boards and commissioners for each of the six schools still in consideration.

“It is a partnership that every governing body would need to be aware of,” Smith-Woofter said.

“The county government is still responsible for the appropriation of funding for the upkeep and maintenance of the building,” she explained, adding the county school system will continue to be responsible for things such as transportation and lunch programs.

Board Chairman Robert Carter acknowledged the importance of meeting with the ISD superintendent and also thanked Dr. Smith-Woofter for the information.