Staff photo by Allison Potter
New Hanover County Board of Education members Tammy Covil and Dr. Derrick Hickey and Wrightsville Beach School parents, background, listen as chairman Donald Hayes speaks during a work session on Tuesday, March 19.
The New Hanover County Board of Education unanimously approved a new short-term option to add two trailers to Wrightsville Beach School for three years and to extend the use of the two fifth-grade classrooms at Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church for an additional year to address the overcrowding issue.
About two dozen WBS parents who attended the work session on Tuesday, March 19, applauded the board’s decision, which will delay but not end the need for redistricting.
The school is currently 101 students over capacity. The trailers would be purchased for the school, but every year the school board would have to request an extension of the church lease.
“It buys us two years,” said Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley. “We should know by then whether the county commissioners are going to support a bond or not.”
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners have said they would prefer to delay the proposed school bond referendum, including $6.25 million in WBS renovations.
If and when a bond is approved, it could take up to three years to complete construction and up to four years to complete a renovation.
Markley said the funds have already been approved to expand the mobile units, but member Tammy Covil said she was not comfortable with having to pay a significant amount of money to remove the trailers at a later date.
“Essentially, Wrightsville Beach is the tip of the iceberg,” member Derrick Hickey said about overcrowding being part of a larger district problem.
He said no board member wants to “willy-nilly” move students before making a motion to accept option No. 7.
“My philosophy has always been if you live closer to the school, you get to go there,” Chairman Don Hayes said.
Bill Hance, assistant superintendent for planning and operations, said the number of students at WBS needs to be below 300 students in the future.
Vice-chairwoman Jeannette Nichols said traffic concerns could still be a problem with option No. 7.
“We’ve got to have some serious, serious plans for this traffic,” she said.
Markley said there have again been discussions about trying to run an express bus from Landfall. Covil said the traffic problem could be resolved if parents do not block driveways when lining up to pick up their kids on Coral Drive.
Member Lisa Estep said she was concerned that there is no school voice at the table during talks about new developments at the county level. A letter to the commissioners will be presented to the board requesting to be included in those discussions.
The board scheduled a meeting for April 2, at 4 p.m., to further discuss the county’s April 15 budget recommendation. The county’s final deadline is May 15.
The total school board request is currently estimated at $69.95 million, a 7.2-percent increase from the current year operating appropriation of $61.66 million plus a 1.5-percent increase of $900,000 for the projected increase for the transfer of students into two new charter schools opening in the fall.
The per pupil request is currently $2,545, which is 7 percent higher than last year, but 4 percent less than the county per pupil cost in 2008-09.
During the April 2 meeting, board members will also specifically discuss the funding of background checks for all school volunteers and school resource officers and whether they should continue to be placed in elementary schools county wide.
Covil requested the results of a district-wide survey about SROs be posted online on the New Hanover County Schools website, http://www.nhcs.k12.nc.us