Board delays decision on Princeville school


Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

TARBORO — The fate of Princeville Elementary School still remains uncertain as Monday night’s expected vote on the issue did not take place.

The “approval of Princeville Elementary School” was listed on the agenda for the Edgecombe County Public Schools Board of Education meeting, and the school board was expected to vote on the restoration of the school that was flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew roughly a year ago. However, Superintendent Dr. Valerie Bridges announced at the meeting that the vote had been delayed.

“At this time we will need to remove that item,” Bridges said. “There are a couple of meetings that need to occur before we make a final decision or it is brought to a vote before the board.”

In a later interview, Bridges said the vote had been delayed because she feels she needs to get input from Edgecombe County commissioners and the mayor of Princeville before presenting the issue to the board for a final vote.

“The county commissioners and mayor of Princeville are our partners in this effort and I want them to know that they are valued,” Bridges said. “I think it is important that they have an opportunity to come to the table for this issue.”

In response to a question from the Telegram, Bridges clarified that the school board has the authority to act on the issue unilaterally. However, she said she feels it is prudent to get input from these other community partners before taking action.

At a special called meeting held in September to discuss the issue, school board members seemed to be leaning toward restoring the school. At that meeting, Bridges said that between the school’s insurance policy and additional funding through FEMA, the school district should have enough money to not only repair the school but also add some hazard mitigation upgrades to help prevent as much damage from occurring in a future flood.

Bridges also said that Princeville Elementary School’s enrollment was staying well above the 125 minimum established by former Superintendent John Farrelly as a prudent enrollment level. In addition, two apartment complexes near the site of the flooded school are in the process of being rebuilt.

The time table for making the decision is short. At the September meeting, David Coker, director of maintenance and transportation for Edgecombe County Public Schools, made it clear that if a vote on the restoration of Princeville Elementary School were made in October, the school would likely be repaired in time for classes to begin in fall 2018. However, too much of a delay would make that deadline impossible, Coker said.

During the public input portion of Monday’s meeting, Princeville resident Yolanda Thigpen voiced her support for the rebuilding of the school.

“We feel that it would be in the best interest of the community to rebuild the school,” Thigpen said. “Having it sitting there deteriorating in our neighborhood is not a good thing.”

Bridges said the school board will likely vote on the issue at the next school board meeting to be held on Nov. 13, if not before.

“We can always hold a special called meeting later before then,” Bridges said. “That is a possibility.”