03/11/09 — Duplin officials aim to build new vocational magnet school

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Duplin officials aim to build new vocational magnet school

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 11, 2009 1:46 PM

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Savannah Gautier, left, Cruz Vera, Seth Albright, Madison Kennedy and Hannah Martin, students in Lisa Jones' kindergarten class at North Duplin Elementary School, make bears Monday. The students brought their stuffed bears to class and colored the paper ones the same before cutting them out and stuffing them.

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County officials decided this week to pursue the creation of a new magnet school to focus on vocational and technical training.

Voting Tuesday night, the Duplin County Board of Education unanimously agreed to build the school in front of the Events Center on Duplin Commons across from James Sprunt Community College on N.C. 11 south of Kenansville. The action was based on a previous vote by the county board of commissioners to offer the land for a high school. That vote, too, was unanimous.

The close proximity to the college would open opportunities for the students, said school board member Jennings Outlaw, and an open enrollment policy would get rid of a controversy that has plagued the school board over consolidation of other high schools.

The school would be large enough to accommodate 1,100 students drawn to the specialized career-building curriculum, said school board member Reginald Kenan.

"You can't offer the curriculum they deserve with only 630 kids (attending)," Kenan said.

The new school would take a magnet approach and attract those students who want to pursue certain careers with technical training and other vocational courses.

"A lot of kids aren't that interested in academics, but if you give them electronics or something mechanical, they will stay. A lot just get bored unless you give them something to do with their hands," Kenan said.

And no matter what programs go into the building, the structural plan developed five years ago by consultant Robbie Ferris of Shueller, Ferris, Lindstrom & Associates is going to be adequate. He told the school board that the kind of programs provided in the building are going to affect the equipment that goes into the building more than the building itself.

"This is one of the most exciting days of the last five years of my life," Ferris said. "Everything you've said tonight has made the last five years worth it. I think what you describe will be one of the most powerful high schools in the nation and will create a strong and vibrant community."

Ferris told the school board he can provide an updated construction budget by Monday.

"The only problem I can think about is this will be such an exciting school everyone will want to go," he said.

But he added that the design he has prepared is laid out so that it can expand in two directions for additional shop spaces and career and technical classrooms. And there is plenty of room to grow at Duplin Commons.

However, county officials do not have a timetable for the construction of the facility and do not have a plan yet as to how they will pay for the new building.