PEMBROKE — The Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County on Saturday authorized administrators to move forward with plans to transfer fourth-grade students at Tanglewood and Rowland-Norment elementary schools to Carroll Middle School in time for the start of the next school year.
The decision came during the board’s annual retreat held Friday and Saturday at COMtech, which covered everything from maintenance of school facilities to finances and policy.
The board voted 7-3 in favor of the fourth-grade transfer, with Dwayne Smith, whose district houses Tanglewood Elementary and Carroll Middle schools; Bosco Locklear; and Severeo Kerns in opposition. The vote will be taken again at the June meeting to become official.
According to school administrators, there are currently 114 third-grade students at Tanglewood and 87 students at Rowland Norment who will be affected by the transfer. Walter Jackson, an assistant superintendent, said five teachers from Tanglewood and four teachers from Rowland-Norment will also be transferred to the middle school to teach fourth grade.
Smith, whose son is currently a third-grade student at Tanglewood, has said that overcrowding at some Robeson County schools, especially Tanglewood, is due to a liberal transfer policy that allows students from outside the district to attend school there.
Smith said students living in the district are being forced to attend the middle school to make room at the elementary schools for students from other districts. Smith told board members that as the member in whose district Tanglewood lies, he objected to their planning to move the fourth-graders to the middle school without his input.
“This was not brought up by me,” Smith said. “… You are shipping people out of the district to make room for out-of-district students.”
Locklear agreed with Smith.
“We need to put a percentage cap on transfers,” Locklear said. “It’s not fair to the people in the community to bring in a busload of transfers.”
School system Superintendent Johnny Hunt said moving the students would not hurt the education they receive. He told The Robesonian after the meeting that in the past, fourth-grade students from both elementary schools had attended Carroll Middle.
Board member John Campbell spoke in favor of the transfer.
“We are talking about the same teachers, the same parents and the same support system for the students,” he said. “We’re just talking about a different building.”
Board members Saturday also gave their approval to the administration to revise the policy governing who can attend the district’s Early College High School.
The new policy, which becomes effective next school year, will allow students who are not enrolled in the county school system to apply to attend the school. Current regulations require that a student be enrolled in the county’s public schools to be eligible to attend the Early College High School, which is held on the campus of Robeson Community College.
Under the new policy, 80 percent of the 45 or 50 students selected each year to attend the school must be first-generation college students. The remaining 20 percent can be eligible if there is documented evidence of long-term medical and emotional issues.
On Friday, board members were brought up to date on maintenance and rehabilitation of school facilities. Topics included air-conditioning, paving and roofing projects and sewer system and septic tank work under way at the Piney Grove and Littlefield schools.
Board members were also brought up to date on repairs and renovations being conducted at the Townsend Middle School gym, which soon will be leased to the town of Maxton for use as a community center. Attorney Grady Hunt said that with the work almost complete, he is ready to move forward with drawing up the lease.
Board members Saturday amended a policy to prohibit students from transferring more than once in any single school year to participate in a sport. Assistant Superintendent Steve Gaskins said there are several students who have transferred as many as three times in a given year so they could participate in a specific sport.