04/02/04 — Duplin parents want new school

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Duplin parents want new school

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

ALBERTSON -- Parents want to renovate B.F. Grady Elementary School and build a high school to keep their children in the community when they leave the eighth grade.

The parents plan to have a representative present a proposal to the Duplin County Board of Education on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the School Administration Building in Kenansville.

About 50 B.F. Grady parents gathered Thursday night for another forum to find a solution to overcrowding at their school, which was built in 1994 based on projections of expected growth. It was built to hold 450 students, but it now has 800 students.

A member of the parents' steering committee, James Outlaw, said student population growth has slowed in the past four years to about 16 students per year. But by 2015, the student population is expected to be 1,000.

Officials from the state Department of Public Instruction's Planning Section helped the steering committee estimate what it would cost to relieve the overcrowding and keep the children in the neighborhood when they go to high school.

They said renovating the school to house 1,000 students would cost about $6.7 million. Building a new high school to house 450 students would cost about $12.5 million. The $19.2 million would include $306,000 for the purchase of 36 acres for the new high school, which the parents would prefer to be beside the elementary school property.

School board member Jeff Miller, who represents B.F. Grady and North Duplin school districts, said the high school would have to be built with tax money.

"I think a lot of people when they come to the Board of Education think the Board of Education is a taxable body," he said. "We are not. We have to go to county commissioners. When I went on the board nine years ago, they were funding a 3 percent increase each year. But the students coming in were getting less money. "

Miller said North Carolina has 117 school systems. Of those 117, he said, Duplin County is number 114 on the list regarding county money received. He said five groups approached the school board with construction needs during a meeting last month. The school system has needs throughout the county, he said.

He reminded the parents that B.F. Grady was one of the newest schools in the county.

The growth is occurring in the B.F. Grady school district, said steering committee member Mike Davis.

Davis said East Duplin High School, which takes students from B.F. Grady, Beulaville and Chinquapin elementary schools, will be overcrowded in two or three more years. He said only 49 percent of the students who go from B.F. Grady to East Duplin graduate.

"We feel more will graduate if we keep them here at B.F. Grady," he said.

The steering committee passed out a new survey, asking the parents if they would favor a bond referendum for construction needs in Duplin County.

Davis said the survey conducted at the last forum, which was held in March, showed 90 percent of the parents surveyed favored the idea of building a high school at B.F. Grady.