BCS needs a Long Range Facilities Plan before it builds any more schools | Eastern North Carolina Now

Rumor has it that the schools Superintendent and majority of the School Board have decided to build a new school “on land currently owned by the school system…” to replace John Cotton Tayloe.  This appears to be getting the cart before the horse.

What Beaufort County needs is a comprehensive long-range plan for school facilities, both the construction and maintenance of existing facilities.  By “comprehensive” we mean for the entire county, not just one attendance area or one school.

It should also be noted that the plan upon which the $30 million school bond program was based still has needs that were not addressed, but promised if voters passed the bond issue.  Specifically, the Chocowinity area was promised a new school to replace the existing Chocowinity Middle School and an expansion of Chocowinity Primary School.

This is not to say that Chocowinity’s needs are the most pressing in the county today, but what it does say is that promises that were made should be kept, absent a compelling reason not to do so.

A sound comprehensive plan would identify all of the current and projected needs and then those needs should be prioritized to make the dollars available to the furthest extent possible. 

The identification of needs should provide an inventory of all facilities and their general condition and capacities, based on state standards.  Those standards are very objective, and the state Division of School Planning has an excellent record of setting those standards.

In addition to facilities inventory, the board should ensure that a comprehensive enrollment projection study is done, again using the methodology used historically by the Division of School Planning.  They look at the enrollment in each grade and project what the enrollment will be in the next grade the following year.  This cohort method has proven to be quite accurate when adjusted for historical trends (called the cohort survival method).  A student locator system is overlaid over the population projections, and this provides data about where the population will change over the next thirteen years as the cohorts move through the grades.  There are a number of different resources that have adequate technology to accomplish this.

It is at this point that the School Board must make some strategic decisions, the most notable being the student assignment plans that could be viable in making the best use of existing facilities.  Beaufort County has a history of overbuilding in some areas and leaving greater needs unaddressed in other areas.  In other words, poor planning.

But the elephant in the room is the unitary student assignment in the Washington Attendance Area.  This is a holdover from the pre-merger configuration and has not been addressed since merger.  Therefore, there is a compelling need for the board to determine what grade structure is best for students.  The two-grade configuration per school in Washington creates an inefficient busing system which sees children bussed from the Pitt County line all the way across Washington to Eastern Elementary School and vice versa.  This cross busing should be carefully examined before any facility is built in Washington.  It may also be time the planning process looks at the use of the U. S. 17 By-pass bridge as a way of making more efficient use of existing and future facilities.

With the technology that is available today, the School Board could have a much better handle on how to restructure the system to make the most efficient use of existing facilities.  We would like to see different options organized along the PK-5, 6-8, and 9-12 structure versus a PK-8, 9-12 configuration.

A major strategic decision that we have written about for over ten years is to create a "magnet school" campus west of Washington near the Pitt County line that would attract residents who work in Pitt County (Medical District and Industrial Park) but want to live in Beaufort County to escape the problems of a growing urbanized system in Pitt.  ThIs pattern can be seen in Franklin, Johnston, and Chatham counties adjacent to Wake County and similar patterns in other urban centers.  If you doubt this, just do some research into what has happened in the Clayton area of Johnston County.  Beaufort County would have been much smarter to have used some of the land it has owned for years that has sat vacant in the Industrial Park, for a location of this school.  The School Board and County Commission should also be looking at the impact the proposed interstate connector between Greenville and U. S. 17 would have on residential development in western Beaufort County.

Those are just some of the “off the top of our head” issues that come to mind when you start looking at future school construction.  The absolute most foolish thing to do was what the School Board did when it built Southside and S. W. Snowden.  Remember, research done on the $30 million bond issue found that on a per student basis over its life expectancy the Southside High School facility was the most expensive school ever built at that time in North Carolina.  And the taxpayers and students are still paying for that mistake.

We urge the School Board and County Commission to not go off “halfcocked” and just build a school without having all the data to make better decisions than have been made in Beaufort County in the past. 

Don’t just pick one need and meet that one need while letting the rest of the needs go untouched. 

Let’s get it right this time.

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( May 28th, 2023 @ 12:39 pm )
Still, there is absolutely no reason to build any more new schools in Beaufort County, and there is an absolute necessity to make these taxpayer owned facilities, currently here in Beaufort County, more available to other educational initiatives, especially NOW as the long awaited School Choice is finally gaining a wee foothold here in North Carolina.
( May 28th, 2023 @ 7:46 am )
Once burned twice shy. The last school building project was put in the hands of the School Board. It was a similar failure in every respect. It was over budget. It located schools in the worst places. The simple truth, today, is that our school buildings have almost two times the number of seats that we have students.

A comprehensive examination is a must.

Keep a close look on the school building program or we will have another disaster.

Leaving this to the School Board, we will have the same quality in the school building process that we have in the poor quality of education in Beaufort County.

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