PSRC leaders OK school improvement projects

Jessica Horne Staff writer
<p>Williamson</p>

Williamson

<p>Burnette</p>

Burnette

<p>Lowry</p>

Lowry

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    LUMBERTON — The Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education approved Tuesday moving forward with multiple school improvements including roof replacements, track improvements and building expansion.

    School board members approved capital outlay project recommendations by the Finance and Construction committees that will replace roofs on Prospect Elementary, South Robeson Intermediate and St. Pauls High schools, repair the track at Fairmont High School and renovate classrooms and offices at Shining Stars Preschool in Lumberton.

    The roofing projects are estimated to cost about $371,000, according to Gordon Burnette, PSRC’s chief communications officer. The track improvements and preschool renovations will move forward in the bidding process and the cost for the projects has not been determined yet.

    “We are excited about Shining Stars and being able to expand,” said PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson.

    Williamson said the expansion will allow the school to serve more than 200 students.

    Additionally, school board member Craig Lowry said that paving work at Rex-Rennert Elementary School should start Nov. 1.

    In other action

    School board members approved offering free COVID testing to schools across the district. The testing is set to launch Oct. 18.

    “Testing in the schools helps us quickly detect COVID-19 and reduce the risks of future spread,” said Jennifer Freeman, assistant superintendent of Student Services, Intervention and Support.

    The program is funded by a $10 billion grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. PSRC is among more than 200 school districts participating in the StrongSchoolsNC K-12 COVID-19 Testing Program, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

    Letters have been sent to principals and are to be distributed to parents concerning registration for the tests, Burnette said.

    Also approved was offering a $1,500 sign-on bonus for certified teachers at R.B. Dean-Townsend Elementary School.

    Erica Setzer, PSRC’s chief finance officer, said that school officials will meet on Friday to discuss sign-on bonuses.

    “We don’t have enough funding to do it for all staff,” she said. “What we’re looking at is those hard-to-staff areas.”

    School board members Terry Locklear, Dwayne Smith and Craig Lowry voiced concerns related to student learning.

    Locklear said that minimum standards should be discussed for students to yield a more successful experience. PSRC Superintendent Freddie Williamson said those standards have been defined, but might not be practiced, which he said he planned to look into at a later date.

    “Our problem is we have face-to-face, and we’re having virtual,” Smith said.

    He suggested coming up with an alternative to virtual learning, which he said is not working.

    “Just based on last year’s data, face-to-face is where we need to be,” Williamson said.

    Students who are learning virtually should be held accountable for not attending classes throughout the day, Lowry said.

    “Somebody has to suffer the consequences of not doing what you’re supposed to,” he said.

    Robert Locklear, assistant superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Accountability, said an accountability system is in place for all students including those learning virtually.

    Also on Tuesday, school board members approved eligibility for schools to participate in the National Beta Club. Some schools previously were not eligible before the district’s decision, according to Burnette. District Distinction Day will involve all schools.

    School board members also approved districtwide participation in the North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities. Some schools previously were involved with NCASA, which holds activities such as competitive debates and state writing and visual arts competitions.

    “I am excited. I hope that our teachers and superintendent and principals take the ball and run with this,” said Linda Emanuel, a school board member.

    Students benefit from “healthy competition,” Emanuel said.

    Also, school board members were reminded that the school district will host its annual Unity Day on Oct. 20. People who wish to participate are encouraged to wear orange to support unity and discourage bullying in the school system.

    School board members emerged from a closed door session and voted to amend personnel as decided in closed session. No other information was provided.

    Superintendent Williamson said after closed session that a Pembroke Middle School bus was hit in the rear by a vehicle Tuesday. There were more than 20 children on the bus. No injuries were reported.

    One child was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, but has since been released, Burnette said.

    Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]