LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County’s central office will move back to Lumberton on July 1.
School board members voted unanimously and without comment on Thursday to enter into a one-year lease on the former BB&T service center at 4320 Kahn Drive. The vote was taken during a meeting that was reconvened from the board’s regular meeting on May 15.
In a separate decision, the school board will hold a public hearing on closing West Lumberton Elementary on June 12 from 5 to 6 p.m., before its regular meeting. The school was flooded by Hurricane Matthew and students were moved to Lumberton Junior High School. Enrollment has fallen below 100 students, and the state will no longer pay for a principal.
The monthly rent at the BB&T building will be $11,700, Superintendent Shanita Wooten said.
“We’ll get twice the space for about the same rent we were paying,” she said.
School board member Brian Freeman added, “We will be able to put the central office staff all under one roof for the first time since the hurricane.”
The building is owned by Steve Branch and will require some investment before it will be operational. The schools will rent about two-thirds of the entire building.
“It will cost significantly less than the $200,000 figure we had discussed,” Wooten said. “We will use partitions to make offices.”
In the days after Hurricane Matthew struck on Oct. 8, 2016, most of the central office staff was relocated to the Angel Exchange building, located in at COMtechjust outside Pembroke. The district’s Finance Department was moved to a building owned by The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
The rent at Angel Exchange was $10,000 a month and the lease expires on June 30. The PSRC was facing a significant rent increase if it chose to stay, according to Wooten.
The money was being garnished by the county because Angel Exchange was behind in paying taxes and fees at COMtech.
The Robeson County Board of Commissioners floated the idea of buying Angel Exchange building as a permanent home for the school system. School district leaders refused the offer, saying the building didn’t fit its needs.
The system is still looking for a permanent home, and has purchased a 48-acre site on N.C. 711 at Deep Branch Road for possible use as a location for a central office complex and other district operations.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 of [email protected]