03/03/09 — Board to seek comment on school plan

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Board to seek comment on school plan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 3, 2009 1:46 PM

A public hearing will be held to discuss Wayne County Public Schools' proposal to reorganize four of its schools, a move expected to save the district $945,000.

The Board of Education set March 16 as the meeting time to hear public comment on the issue. It will start at 6 p.m. at the schools' administrative offices on Royall Avenue.

The preliminary proposal was first announced at the February board meeting. After further study, Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor shared findings at Monday night's meeting.

The reorganization calls for Goldsboro Intermediate, which currently houses fifth and sixth grades, to merge with Dillard Middle, seventh and eighth grades, into one school in 2009-10 on the Dillard campus. Projected school enrollment would be 565 students.

It also calls for the closure of Belfast and Southern academies, both grades 6-12, and relocating both programs into the vacated Goldsboro Intermediate building. The move would establish one alternative school, which would be divided into a sixth- through eighth-grade middle school and a 9-12 grade high school on the first floor.

The second floor would be used to locate office space for such areas as school psychologists and behavior support, exceptional children's department, Wee Wings staff, preschool personnel and related service providers.

Much went into the study, Taylor said -- including geographic conditions, school enrollments and transportation issues.

"Students currently en-rolled at Goldsboro Inter-mediate feed into Dillard Middle after two years," Taylor said. "The feeder pattern remains the same with students moving from Carver Heights, North Drive Elementary and School Street Elementary, directly into Dillard Middle with the new grade configuration of grades five through eight."

Students currently enrolled in the two alternate schools -- Belfast in the northern end and Southern in Mount Olive -- will converge to a more central location, Taylor said, which will be beneficial in terms of transportation routing and associated costs.

Enrollment at the academies fluctuates each nine weeks, as students return to their home schools and new students arrive. The Goldsboro Intermediate building will allow for a maximum capacity of 250 students, which Taylor said should be ample space for the proposed middle and high school population.

"The combining of Goldsboro Intermediate and Dillard Middle into one school will not cause any inconvenience or hardship to any student since Dillard is in the regular feeder pattern under the current grade configuration," he said.

As for transportation across the district from base schools to either of the current alternative schools, Taylor said the more central location means that students will no longer be split between two different schools.

"The new proposed site will for the most part shorten the bus ride for most students and generate a savings in transportation costs for the district," he said.

Other savings are anticipated as well.

"We also looked at projected savings that we would incur, have looked at what we have paid out over the last two or three years, in some cases," Taylor said. "It would be in the neighborhood of $945,000 in generated savings to put this proposal in place."

Itemized, that amount breaks down to $670,000 for personnel, $125,000 for utilities, $20,000 for technology, $40,000 for operations, $25,000 for maintenance and $65,000 for transportation.

The board has still not taken action on the plan, and will not until after the public hearing, Taylor said.

Board Chairman George Moye called the proposed reorganization "a stroke of brilliance."

"The idea that we can save $945,000, give or take, is a massive savings," he said. As a school board, he said, finding the best options for educating children is "what we do."

Board member Thelma Smith expressed hope that the community would turn out for the public hearing, whether to support the proposal or to share their concerns.

"We will certainly want you to come and hear what this board is proposing and why we are proposing the things that we are," she said. "I think if you do hear the explanation, you will understand and agree with us."