School work on county’s Monday agenda

By: Donnie Douglas -

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Board of Commissioners will head back to school on Monday, dealing with an agenda topped with items related to the Public Schools of Robeson County.

The meeting will be at the Department of Social Services, not the county administrative building, and will begin at 6 p.m.

First the commissioners will entertain a request from the school system to buy 47.9 acres of land on N.C. 711 near Pinecrest Country Club, apparently as a site to build a central office at a cost estimated at $35 million to replace the one destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. The purchase price of the land is $192,000 and schools attorney Grady Hunt said in a letter to the county he would like to close on the deal by Friday.

Although the central office has been most talked about for the N.C. 711 site, there is also the sentiment that its price is too good to pass on and can be used by the system, even if not for a central office. In addition to the central office, other school services would be consolidated, including the planetarium, which was also destroyed by Matthew.

The Robesonian has been told my multiple sources there is also a push to look at a warehouse on N.C. 41 that potentially could be modified and work as a central office at a large tax savings to local taxpayers. The school system also has plans to build a new school to replace West Lumberton Elementary, which was also destroyed by Matthew. The total cost would be near $60 million and would likely force a tax increase.

The Native Angels building at COMtech, which has been used as a temporary central office, has also been floated as a potential permanent central office, but most school board members are against, saying it does not have enough space for staff or adjoining acreage.

Also on Monday, Eric Hall, the superintendent of the Innovative School District, will inform the commissioners on what the new program could mean for students at Southside-Ashpole Elementary School. He might have a tough sale.

The commissioners and the school board are expected to write Hall and express their opinion of the state’s effort to include the Rowland school as the only one in the ISD for the 2018-19 school year. But by state law, if the school board rejects inclusion, the school will be close and its 270 students transferred to other public schools in the county, 27 of which are low-performing out of 42.

Hall has said that inclusion could mean better teachers at the school as resources can be shifted, and tweaks perhaps made to the school calender and how many hours are in a school day. The school would be run by a principal that is hired by a private entity, either nonprofit or for-profit, but the rest of the staff would work for the state.

Also during the meeting, there will be 10 public hearings, a presentation by Tim Little, president of the Kiwanis Club, a presentation from Commissioner Raymond Cummings on the Southeastern Economic Development Commission, and a presentation by Gene Jones, CEO of Arrested Potential Inc.

Donnie Douglas

Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649.

Donnie Douglas can be reached at 910-416-5649.