02/04/04 — School district lines shift

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School district lines shift

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on February 4, 2004 2:02 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The school board has changed district lines between B.F. Grady and North Duplin schools, but not all students will have to change schools.

The Duplin County Board of Education voted 5 to 6 Tuesday night to move the district line over about five or six miles into the former B.F. Grady school district to pull more students into the North Duplin district.

Superintendent Tommy Benson said those students who have transportation to the school or to a bus stop on the edge of the district can continue attending B.F. Grady. But for those who have to ride the bus, they will be going to North Duplin.

He suggested making the change for a year and then re-evaluating the situation to see if the change brought about the board's objective of filling spaces at North Duplin and relieving the overcrowding at B.F. Grady.

"We won't ever solve all of that problem, but it will eliminate a lot of it," he said.

If the students in that area don't have transportation to the school or to a bus stop on the district line, they have to start attending North Duplin, said Benson. By doing it this way, he said, he was trying to not have buses from two districts going into the same area.

The school board will have to strike a delicate balance by filling North Duplin but not overloading that school. "We already have B.F. Grady overloaded," said Benson.

When you look at the school districts before the change, B.F. Grady was overcrowded by 219 students. If they all were sent to North Duplin, it would put that school at over capacity, he said.

When school board member Graham Phillips Jr. of Wallace asked why not just change the district lines and let it end there, Benson said he's trying to listen to the community's concerns.

The school system held public hearings in 2003 at both schools.

But Phillips said there's too much "double talk." He said he feels the school board is "playing politics rather than meeting the needs of the schools."

Benson said he wants to avoid forcing things down people's throats when it's unnecessary.

"What if only 50 people go to North Duplin, and B.F. Grady is still overloaded?" Phillips asked.

Benson said that since it's already overloaded, B.F. Grady can keep the students it has one more year.

School board member Hubert Bowden of District 6 agreed with Benson. "What's wrong with looking at it from year to year as long as we let the community know we care about their concerns?"

Jeff Miller, who represents North Duplin and B.F. Grady districts on the school board, moved to change the line on a one-year trial basis, and at the end of the year, decide whether to make it permanent.

Phillips was the only member who voted against the measure.

School board Chairman Doc Brinson said that if the change moves most of the 219 students to North Duplin, it worked. "But if the reverse of what we think happens, we obviously have to go back" and revisit the issue.