07/12/07 — School officials hoping for state bond help

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School officials hoping for state bond help

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 12, 2007 1:46 PM

With enthusiasm in the General Assembly for school construction waning, school systems across the state are working to gather grassroots support for a possible $2 billion public school bond referendum.

The Wayne County Board of Education met Tuesday at Eastern Wayne Middle School, with representatives of the county Board of Commissioners also in attendance, to hear the proposal.

The state School Boards Association has estimated that public school construction needs over the next five years will top $9.8 million in the state. That is expected to provide 4,941 new classrooms in 2,616 schools.

School officials said they could not speculate on how much funding would be earmarked for Wayne County.

"The $40 million range has been mentioned but we haven't been given any final numbers," said county Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor.

The last state bond money was distributed in 1996, he said, and "we used that money as long as it would last. It would be good for the state to give us another $40 million."

With Wayne school officials pondering a $105 million facilities plan, Taylor said the amount would represent about one-third of the district's 20-year construction goals.

The meeting site for the session was thoughtfully chosen, Taylor noted. Officials gathered in a mobile unit used as a music classroom behind the school building.

"We thought it was pretty representative of some of the issues we have in Wayne County Public Schools," Taylor said. "The construction is really out of date and not really in touch with how schools are designed today. This is representative of many of our schools across the district."

He urged those in attendance to contact their legislators and lobby for support of the state bond referendum. He said he had already spoken with local lawmakers, who were in Raleigh and unable to attend the meeting.

Sprunt Hill, assistant superintendent for auxiliary services, gave a brief presentation of the district's construction needs. Taylor called it a continuation of ongoing efforts, which have also included community meetings earlier in the year and a prioritized list of projects completed earlier that day.

County commissioner J.D. Evans said, "We're in favor of doing whatever is necessary from the state level. I think that we certainly will be backing the state bond."

The board of commissioners will continue to work with the school board to further the cause, both locally and through state support, Evans said.

"We hear what you're saying ... and want to do our part to make something happen," he said.