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Public input plan crafted for school closings

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BY AMELIA HARPER
Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Safety and Facilities Committee of the Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education met Monday morning to discuss plans for involving the community in the discussion of the proposed consolidation of three elementary schools in the district.

“We are unanimous in our desire to ensure that there is community engagement throughout this process,” said school board member Wayne Doll, who chairs the committee.

The discussion centered around a plan under consideration to close Cedar Grove Elementary School, Red Oak Elementary School and Swift Creek Elementary School and consolidate them into one new state-of-the art elementary school.

The committee discussed a plan that will involve the creation of a focus group for each affected school. The focus group would meet with select board members and school officials to discuss specific concerns about the way the plan would affect their school. The focus groups also would provide feedback on transportation, student assignment and location of the facility.

“We will also try to get recommendations regarding town hall meetings where all board members will attend to hear community concerns,” said Brian Miller, chief of staff of the school district. “The board will identify key stakeholders for introductory meetings. The goal is to represent the board’s priorities for assigning students to schools.”

Members of the committee discussed asking for volunteers for these forums. However, they ultimately decided against the process, deciding that it would be too time-consuming and unwieldy. 

“It is perfectly appropriate that those initial focus groups be by invitation only. There is no information that will not come to the public in the town hall meetings. These focus groups will not be decision-making bodies,” Superintendent Dr. Shelton Jefferies told the committee.

Jefferies said the initial meetings will be held with “key stakeholders of influence in the community.”  School board members will recommend participants for these forums at the next school board meeting on April 12.

“I believe with you all being able to target some stakeholders, that can help carry the rationale of what this process entails,” Jefferies said.

Jefferies said the forums will be public meetings. However, members of the community will have their chance to provide input at a series of town meetings that will be scheduled at a later date.

“Our commitment is to make sure we have a clearly publicized process that articulates exactly when community members will be able to have their say and at what point the board will take that information to make a decision regarding potential consolidations,” Jefferies said.

The committee’s recommendation for the engagement plan will be presented to the full board at the April board meeting. However, since a majority of the school board members were present for the committee meeting, full board approval seems likely.

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