Three schools slated for closure


Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NASHVILLE — Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools plans to close three elementary schools and consolidate them into one new facility, according to a grant application the district plans to send next week to the N.C. State Superintendent of Public Schools.

The grant proposal cites Cedar Grove Elementary School, Red Oak Elementary School and Swift Creek Elementary School as the three schools targeted for closure under the plan. These schools serve students in portions of Rocky Mount, Red Oak, Dortches, Castalia, the Battleboro community and Nashville.

“All of these facilities are out-dated,” the preliminary grant proposal states. “Nash-Rocky Mount’s vision is to combine these schools and build a state of the art elementary school that will serve the aforementioned communities, which will afford students the opportunity to have access to technological, innovative teaching and learning experiences.”

Nash County commissioners signed off on the preliminary draft of the grant proposal at a special called meeting on Tuesday. Commissioners pointed out several flaws in the preliminary draft that will be resubmitted to Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools for correction before the final draft is sent by the deadline on Monday. Both the Nash County Board of Commissioners and the school board must sign off on the grant.

The grant request is for $15 million to go toward construction of the new school facility. The grant amount, if approved in whole or in part, would come from the new Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund. The fund — more than $100 million over the next two years — was provided by the N.C. General Assembly to assist lower-wealth counties with their critical public school building capital needs, according to a press release from the N.C. State Board of Education.  The fund, which comes from state lottery proceeds, totals $30 million this fiscal year and $75 million in fiscal year 2018-19.

Tier 1 counties are allowed to apply in this first round of funding and the law requires a local match of $1 for every $3 in grant funds for these counties. Nash County is a Tier 2 county, but serves students in the Tier 1 Edgecombe County and so qualifies for application in this round of funding, said Robbie Davis, chairman of the Nash County Board of Commissioners.

County commissioners did say they would reconsider acceptance of the grant under one circumstance, however. Acceptance of this grant would mean the county would lose roughly $6 million in lottery funding over the next five years. If the grant award is below that amount, the county would stand to lose money it is currently applying to debt service for past school construction.

The school closures would be contingent upon public input, the grant application states.

“Prior to reassignment or consolidation of schools, the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education is committed to actively soliciting community engagement via focus groups and town hall meetings. The final board of education decision will be driven by this essential stakeholder input,” the document states.

The school board will meet at 1 p.m. today in the Central Office Board Room at the Administrative Building in Nashville to discuss the grant application.