Study offers new school site options


Staff Writer

Monday, August 26, 2019

NASHVILLE — The Nash-Rocky Mount Board of Education last week heard two recommendations about where the district’s new elementary school should be located.

The school district already has been told that it should receive $10 million from a state grant for construction of the new school and another $10 million from Nash and Edgecombe county commissioners.

The school board heard a presentation from the Operations Research and Education Laboratory (OREd) at N.C. State University, an organization it hired to help select a site for the new school. According to the grant presentation presented to the state, the school board plans to close Red Oak, Cedar Grove and Swift Creek elementary schools — all aging and outdated facilities — in order to build a single state-of-the-art school.

Thomas Dudley, program manager for the OREd team, said his team has two different scenarios to propose.

“We are here presenting the results of our study looking in the optimal location for your new elementary school according to a rigorous demographic analysis we conducted,” Dudley said.

As part of the process, OREd interviewed multiple government officials and planners in Nash and Edgecombe counties and created a “data-focused membership and utilization forecast study” based on factors including land-use studies, community growth factors, a housing development inventory, current and projected school capacities in the district, the resident live birth rate and membership forecasts for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.

The resident live birth in the district has remained fairly consistent for the past six years, said Terry Karlson, a planner for OREd. The number of resident live births in 2017-18 was 1,110.

However, the membership of Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools has steadily declined by about 250 students a year for the past six years, Karlson said. In the 2013-14 school year, the first month membership of the school district was 16,069. In the first month of the 2018-19 school year, there were 14,754 students enrolled in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.

“In the future, we anticipate a 10-year decline to about 13,008 students,” Dudley said.

Based on all these calculations, Dudley proposed two different site scenarios for the new elementary school.

Scenario one would impact the region of three schools and have a capacity of 800 students. That site would be located directly in Red Oak, Dudley said.

“The first scenario is looking only at the current attendance zones for the schools that would be closed: Red Oak, Swift Creek and Cedar Grove elementary schools,” Dudley said. “If you were to open a school based on that attendance zone, you would be seeing utilization rate of the school of roughly 85 percent. That school capacity of 800 would also allow for adjustment for reduction of class sizes under the new state law. So that is a true boots-on-the-ground capacity.”

Scenario two would have an impact on five schools and would have a new school of 900 students. The schools impacted would be the original three schools as well as M.B. Hubbard and Nashville elementary schools.

“Under this scenario, there would be a shifting of the attendance zones that could be used to fill up that new school and create a reduction in overcrowding at the other two schools. And in this scenario, the optimal new school site would shift a little bit to the west,” Dudley said.

The school board likely will need to meet with county commissioners to discuss the new information before it makes a final decision on site selection.

No future meetings between those two boards to discuss the new school construction have yet been slated, said Patricia Hollingsworth, chief communications officer for Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools.