05/14/04 — Mount Olive group eyes school site

View Archive

Mount Olive group eyes school site

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 14, 2004 2:04 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The group behind the move to bring a community high school to Mount Olive is exploring an option it hopes will speed up the process and sidestep the need for a bond referendum.

The Mount Olive High School Steering Committee proposes using the campus of Southern Academy alternative school. Rising ninth-graders could begin attending the new high school as soon as this fall, it said.

A public meeting to discuss the idea is planned for Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Mount Olive Historic Assembly Hall, the former Mount Olive High School.

Mount Olive has a request for an $18 million new high school in the Wayne County Board of Education's $82.2 million facilities plan. The plan was approved by the school board last month and sent to county commissioners for approval. A bond referendum for the November ballot has been suggested.

Lynn Williams, spokesman for the Mount Olive committee, estimated the new proposal would only cost $6 million, which could be funded by the Wayne County commissioners over the next few years.

She said that the idea follows the model used when Spring Creek High School was formed. The high school was created one grade at a time, with one grade added each year.

In Mount Olive's case, the end result would be a 400-student high school.

Mrs. Williams said that by using an existing campus, funding for construction or improvements could be spread over three or four years as the needs grow.

Southern Academy, now an alternative school that also hosts other programs, was originally Carver High School, the community's black high school. It became the first Wayne County high school, black or white, to be accredited by the Southern Association.

"We believe using the old Carver campus makes sense," she said. "We can refurbish a historic campus that means a great deal to our community and return it to its original purpose. In the end, we'll have a first-rate facility for our high school for significantly less than the cost of a new facility."

Mrs. Williams said there has been no discussion yet about how staff and teachers would be obtained for the proposed high school. Everyone currently at Southern Academy, which reports 119 students enrolled, would have to move, she said.

"Obviously, that's an issue that would have to be addressed," she said, and would fall to the school board to decide.

She said the committee plans to approach the school board at its June meeting to request the change in plans for the Mount Olive High School and will then seek funding from the commissioners.

"We know there's some questions that have to be answered," she said. "Once we receive the blessing of the school board, we'll work through them."

She said that Spring Creek families and others familiar with the concept used when the high school was expanded, have been invited to attend and speak at the May 19 meeting.

"We want to particularly encourage Mount Olive Middle School families to attend, as this would most directly affect them in the beginning," she said. "We think it would be helpful for them to be able to ask the questions they have of others who've already been there."