06/21/07 — Duplin chooses plan for facilities

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Duplin chooses plan for facilities

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on June 21, 2007 1:46 PM

The Duplin County Board of Education finally decided Tuesday night which plan it wants to proceed with as it looks to improve the district's school facilities.

After taking another look in recent months at what their options might be, board members voted 4-1 to stick with the plan originally adopted in 2005. Jennings Outlaw cast the only opposing vote.

The plan features three primary components: the building of a new high school to consolidate the students at James Kenan High School and students at East Duplin from the B.F. Grady area; the replacement of E.E. Smith and Warsaw middle schools with a consolidated middle school at the former James Kenan High School; and the construction of a new elementary school in the B.F. Grady area and the renovation of Charity Middle School.

The plan is likely to come with a price tag of $80 million to $85 million, which is higher than the original 2005 estimate of nearly $50 million. Board member Chuck Farrior explained that the jump is due simply to the rising cost of construction, adding that now is the time to move forward with the projects before that cost rises any more.

"I feel like the plan has been scrutinized up one side and down the other, and it's time for the board to move forward with it. We've been floundering, and now it's time to go to the county commissioners and tell them this is the plan we want to proceed with funding," Farrior said, adding though, that they know "the plan will not be able to be implemented at one time. It will need to be a phased approach."

Outlaw, however, said he believes the plan isn't the best for the county and that it was approved simply because it was what was already in place.

"I don't feel like it's good for the B.F. Grady community. I don't feel like the plan was well thought through," he said. "But I think it was already too far gone."

Outlaw represents the B.F. Grady area of the county.

His alternative proposal, which was defeated, would have taken a different approach -- building the new elementary school and building a new middle school, but not a new high school.

"There's a lot of opposition to joining B.F. Grady and James Kenan from the B.F. Grady community," Outlaw explained. "They're happy at East Duplin (High School). East Duplin's the best performing high school in the county right now, and James Kenan is the worst."

County school Superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby, though, voiced his support Wednesday for the plan approved by the board.

"I would say no plan can address all of the needs of any school district, but this one does address some of the county's needs," he said. "I think the board is committed now to moving forward as soon as possible with this plan."

The county Board of Commissioners also is ready to move forward with finding funding for school construction after it voted 5-1 Monday to schedule a meeting with the school board within the next two months to discuss plans and possible funding sources.

Commissioner Zettie Williams voted against the proposal at the time, saying they needed to wait until the school board decided on a final facilities plan, but that step has now been taken.